DENVER - Rather than skip class or disrupt traffic, students in A.P. language and composition at Manual High School turned the debate over the grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner killings into a learning opportunity.
Standing in front of classmates, community members and Denver police officers, the students gave speeches about civil rights, respect and a need for change.
"Respect is something that is rather earned than given. The use of fatal force on unarmed citizens breeds resentment and conflict, not respect," said one student.
"We all saw it. A man died on video in front of five police officers and a crowd of people and nobody helped him," said student Nicole Medina.
The students' passion for this classroom project impressed members of the Denver Police Department.
"You are actually saying something and people are listening. I want to applaud you for that. It's amazing," said Denver Police Tech. Ron Hackett. "To be honest, I could pick something out of each and every speech to which I can say 'I agree' and I appreciate them saying that."
The students came up with the idea for Friday's event. They asked their teacher if they could put what they've learned about writing speeches to the test in a way that was constructive, not disruptive.
"When we give students an opportunity like this and empower them with projects that have authentic purposes and audience, the we see what they truly are capable of," said Olivia Jones, A.P. language teacher.
After the discussion, the students joined in a silent march to a nearby park and returned to class.
"This isn't something that's going to change from today to tomorrow. It will take decades and generations but we can do it." said Lirio Palmer, 11th grade student.
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