- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2014

Several professors in the St. Louis area are revising their class curriculums to integrate discussions about the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the unrest that followed between residents and law enforcement.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that as students return to college this week, “many will find that lesson plans have been hastily revised to include sensitive issues of race and policing.”

“I’d like to work with the class to build a case study on how you would handle a highly charged police shooting,” said Daniel Isom, professor of policing and the community at the University of Missouri at St. Louis and police chief of St. Louis from 2008 to 2012, The Chronicle reported. “How would you deal with a protest situation, what are the steps you go through as a law-enforcement agency in terms of managing a crowd and releasing information to the public?”

Clarissa Rile Hayward, associate professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis, teaches “Power, Justice, and the City” and “History of Political Thought II.” She said she plans to talk about Ferguson on the first day of class.

“We’ll ask what it is about governance and the exercise of power in Ferguson that seems illegitimate,” she told The Chronicle. “Two-thirds of the population is African-American, but the mayor, the entire school board, and all but one member of the City Council are white. It raises the question: Does this body of elected officials share the perspectives of their constituency? How are local elections structured, and how might that contribute to the imbalance?”

Norman A. White, associate professor of criminology at Saint Louis University said: “We’re looking at how issues like poverty, unemployment, and single-parent households increase the possibility of young people engaging in problem behavior. What’s happening in Ferguson is putting this work more front and center, and it’s opened the door to conversations about economic inequality and the constitution of the police force that needed to happen.”

Cindy Epperson, professor of sociology at St. Louis Community College, said her class will discuss how “the life and death” of Michael Brown will lead to social change.

“We’ll also talk about debunking stereotypes and myths,” she told The Chronicle. “Most of the looters shown in the media were black, so people who believe this is what black people do are going to say, ‘See, I told you so.’ But what we do in sociology is look at how many people were there and how many were not looting. How many were opportunists whose actions had nothing to do with the death of Michael Brown?

“We want students to start thinking critically about how the events relate to each other and about possible solutions,” she added. “Why are there only three African-American officers out of 53 when 63 percent of Ferguson is African-American? What kinds of attitudes might be preventing people from becoming police officers, and how can the college be part of the solution?”

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