Students Grapple with Zimmerman Verdict

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More than one hundred students and instructors gathered on Tuesday at Democracy Prep Middle School in Harlem to discuss the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin.

After watching footage of the Florida jury verdict, as well as protests around the country and statements from the Martin family, the students were given time to share their thoughts about the case.

For many, Trayvon Martin’s death left them feeling disillusioned about the U.S. justice system.

“This made me feel like America doesn’t have value for African-American lives,” said Yacine Fall, a ninth grader. “If they really cared, they would have sent him [Zimmerman] away.”

Fall said she now fears for her own safety. “Trayvon Martin was just a regular person going to the store and coming back home,” she said. “I go to the store all the time. That could happen to me.”

Keanan Gibson, also a ninth grader, didn’t feel as affected by the case.

“I’m not really into politics so I didn’t really feel anything from it,” Gibson said, adding he was surprised by the not-guilty verdict.

“It was pretty much unjust. He killed a child. There’s no way you can be not guilty of that,” Gibson said.

Anwar Abdul-Rahman, principal of Democracy Prep, said the purpose of holding a school-wide discussion was to help students develop their opinions on the case.

“I want them to come up with their own opinions. My job is just to present the facts,” Abdul-Rahman said.

Abdul-Rahman said that he hopes that his students will look at the various facts about the case and make informed decisions about current events.

“As they get older, I want them to understand that at some point, you have to make your voice heard,” Abdul Rahman said.

The conversations were not limited to the classroom. WNYC's Kathleen Horan spoke with young people in Coney Island who had plenty to say about the verdict's implications. Take a listen above or click here

For more information on how to talk about Trayvon Martin with children, click here. And for a broader conversation about the verdict's ripple effects, check out some of the hundred-plus comments on The Brian Lehrer Show segment here.