Civics & Government Policy


  • How Separating Children from Parents Became U.S. Government Policy | PBS NewsHour

    Read this NewsHour story to learn more about the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

    On June 18, 2018, theTrump Administration responded to protests and criticism over its “zero tolerance” policy on immigration that has resulted in separation of children from parents at the southern U.S. border. Nearly 2,000 children have been taken from their mothers or fathers since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy, which directs Homeland Security personnel to charge adults with illegal entry and place them in jail, away from their children. Children are required to be turned over from shelters within three days to be housed by another government agency, the Department of Health and Human Services.

    See support materials below for additional background information and classroom discussion questions.

    June 18, 2018 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Santa Fe Study Guide: Have School Shootings Become Part of American Culture? | PBS NewsHour

    Watch the first video, Remembering the Santa Fe Shooting Victims, to learn about the eight students and two teachers who were killed in the school shooting at Santa Fe High School on May 18, 2018 near Houston, Texas. Next, read the Associated Press (AP) story about the circumstances surrounding the shooting and answer the discussion in support materials questions below.

    Then, watch the second video, Texas School Shooting Days Before Graduation Draws Governor’s Call for New Gun Laws. Consider how the words spoken by student Paige Curry relate to those spoken in the aftermath of the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 

    May 22, 2018 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Does Trump’s School Safety Plan Make Schools Safer? | PBS NewsHour

    On March 11, 2018, President Donald Trump shared his school safety plan, which includes arming teachers, expanding mental health, and improving the National Instant Criminal Background System. The plan does not endorse expanding background checks. Trump backpedaled on his support for raising the minimum age to buy assault weapons, and the proposed program is being criticized for not going far enough to address the problem of gun violence. Arming teachers could make schools less safe, given accuracy problems and the potential to draw more shooters to schools.

    March 14, 2018 videos and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Will School Walkouts Inspire Lawmakers to Act? | PBS NewsHour

    On March 14, 2018, thousands of students across the U.S. walked out of class in protest of gun violence and to demand stricter gun laws. This showing — the first large-scale coordinated effort of the student-driven fight for gun control — lasted for 17 minutes to acknowledge the 17 people killed at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February.

    Read NewsHour Extra's Student Voice blog How Teens Want to Solve America's School Shooting Problem. Then share your class’ own solutions to gun violence in schools @NewsHourExtra via Twitter using #StudentGunReformIdeas.

    March 14, 2018 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • What Can We Learn from the Parkland School Shooting? | PBS NewsHour

    For guidance on how to talk with students about mass shootings, you may want to read SAMHSA’s “Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event: A guide for Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers.”

    A shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a northern Miami suburb, killed 17 people on February 14 in the fifth school shooting of 2018 resulting in casualties. Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student who had been expelled from Stoneman, was arrested soon after the shooting. He had legally purchased the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle used in the assault. In a national address from the White House, President Donald Trump said he wanted America’s youth to know, “You are never alone, and you never will be.” He said he plans to explore how to better secure schools and to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”

    February 15, 2018 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • DACA Provides All Students with a Lesson in Social Justice | PBS NewsHour

    California is home to more than 270,000 undocumented students enrolled in public school, the largest number in the country. Anxiety levels of undocumented young people are growing due to the Trump administration’s promise to crack down on illegal immigration. In September, Trump announced that he would end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) protections this March unless Congress could come up with legislation he could stand behind.

    A growing number of California educators are receiving training to become advocates for undocumented students. The aim is to provide resources, including the steps necessary to graduate high school, financial aid information and counseling.

    February 5, 2018 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Government Shutdown: A Teacher's Guide | PBS NewsHour

    On January 12, 2018 at midnight, the U.S. government officially shutdown after Congress and the Trump Administration failed to reach a deal that would keep it open. As the shutdown enters its third day, hundreds of thousands of government workers have been furloughed, or put on involuntary temporary leave. In 2013 when the government last shutdown, approximately 800,000 of the 2.1 million civilian federal employees were furloughed. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the program that protects undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children, remains at the heart of the debate.

    January 22, 2018 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • DACA Debate Upended by President’s Explicit Language | PBS NewsHour

    Warning: Today’s Daily News Story contains explicit language that lawmakers say President Donald Trump used at a meeting while discussing immigration. The text below reflects the latest updates in the story.

    Senators from both parties announced that they have agreed on an immigration deal that would protect DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients and strengthen border security between the U.S. and Mexico. President Donald Trump rejected the compromise, saying the proposal needed more work. The policy debate was overshadowed by vulgar remarks made by the President. Lawmakers attending the meeting said that President Trump asked why the U.S. should accept “all these people from sh*thole countries” in Africa, adding that the U.S should admit more people from places like Norway.

    Trump’s statements were made regarding proposals for ending the current visa lottery program, which stands at 50,000 visas right now. Visas allow people to enter, leave, or stay for a specified period of time in a country. Currently, 25,000 visas are reserved for people with temporary protected status, which means they escaped natural disasters or extreme violence in their home countries.

    January 12, 2018 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Who Protects Public Lands? | PBS NewsHour

    President Donald Trump dramatically cut back the size of two national monuments in Utah on December 4, 2017, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, in order to rectify what he says was overreach by past administrations. In response to the announcement, several lawsuits have been filed against the Trump Administration. They state the decision violates the Antiquities Act of 1906, which gives the president broad legal authority to protect historic landmarks that sit on public lands. 

    Members of the Navajo Nation say the land has long held religious and cultural significance to indigenous peoples, going back thousands of years. One of the businesses suing the Administration is outdoor retailer Patagonia, who replaced its regular home page with a black screen and stark message: “The President Stole Your Land.”

    December 12, 2017 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Trump’s “First 365 Days”: Taxes, Judges, Net Neutrality, Environment | PBS NewsHour

    President Donald Trump continues to pursue his agenda with his base sticking close by his side. Trump's approval rating is one of the lowest of any other modern president at this point in his term.

    On December 2, 2017, Trump became closer to his first big legislative victory after Congress passed the GOP tax plan, the largest tax change in a generation. Trump’s other accomplishments include the Senate’s confirmation of nine Court of Appeals nominations (federal appointments right below the U.S. Supreme Court), reversal of net neutrality and steps to loosen environmental and financial rules. The FBI investigation of whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential race remains underway. It is against the law for members of a presidential campaign to collude with foreign entities to influence elections.

    December 4, 2017 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • How Gold Star Families Became a Political Issue | PBS NewsHour

    For the sake of time, we recommend stopping the video at 3m:23s.

    President Donald Trump continues to face criticism for a condolence call to the Gold Star family of Sgt. La David Johnson, a Special Forces soldier recently killed in Niger. Gold Star Families are the relatives of US military members who died in battle. There was a time when a political leader would never politicize the death of a service member or question a grieving family, said Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report. “It’s a little bit like the customer’s always right. Right? The grieving family is always right in this case,” she said. Walter added this was no longer the case after Trump criticized the Khan family, a Gold Star family, after they spoke out against him at the Democratic National Convention.

    October 25, 2017 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • How Should Elected Officials React to Mass Shootings? | PBS NewsHour

    For guidance on how to talk with students about mass shootings, you may want to read SAMHSA’s “Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event: A guide for Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers.”  

    On October 1, 2017, a mass shooting occurred at an outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas, where 22,000 people had gathered. The gunman, 63-year old Stephen Paddock, killed 58 people and injured more than 500, resulting in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Law enforcement officials found 23 firearms in Paddock's hotel room, and 19 at his home in Mesquite, Nevada.

    October 3, 2017 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Since 9/11, What Do Your Students Know about How the U.S. Has Changed? | PBS NewsHour

    Today’s Daily News Story comes from the PBS NewsHour article 9/11 to Now: Ways We Have Changed. You may wish to assign different sections of the article to different groups of students and have the groups report back as a class.

    Many changes have occurred in U.S. domestic and foreign policy since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which occurred 16 years ago today. Air travel regulations tightened when Congress federalized airport security with the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, creating the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Before 9/11, security had been handled by airports, which outsourced the work to private security companies. More than 260 government agencies were created or reorganized after 9/11. The Patriot Act and 48 bills were signed into law, many of them related to counterterorrism work. The U.S. entered the longest war in our country’s history in Afghanistan after the attacks on 9/11, which continues to this day. The terrorist organization, al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden planned the attacks from Afghanistan with the support of that country’s totalitarian regime. Anti-Islam hate crimes in the U.S. spiked after the attacks, and many Muslims were subject to verbal harassment and increased airport security checks.

    September 11, 2017 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • North Korea Test-Fires Missile | PBS NewsHour

    North Korea appears to be making progress in developing a nuclear arsenal. On July 4, 2017, the state performed what appears to be its most advanced test in pursuit of a nuclear weapon to date, test-firing a missile that might be capable of reaching Alaska. It is unknown whether or not North Korea is capable of building a nuclear warhead that could survive a journey on a long-range missile and detonate successfully, but President Donald Trump is urging China to put more pressure on North Korea to end their nuclear threats.

    July 5, 2017 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Few Trials of Police Shootings End in Convictions | PBS NewsHour

    In July 2016, a young black male named Philando Castile was fatally shot by police officer Jeronimo Yanez outside of St. Paul, Minnesota during a traffic stop due to a broken tail light. After jurors watched disturbing dash-cam footage of the shooting, they acquitted Yanez. Last week, the dash-cam footage went public. 1,155 people were killed by police in 2016 and, only 13 officers were brought charges. Black Americans are killed at three times the rate of others in these cases. Since 2005, 82 United States law enforcement officials have been charged with murder or manslaughter for on-duty shootings. However, only 29 have been convicted, and just 5 for murder. Brittany Packnett, the co-founder of Campaign Zero, an organization calling for police reform, says that the reason so few police trials end in convictions is representative of a systemic problem in the police force. 

    June 23, 2017 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Jeff Sessions' Dramatic Senate Testimony | PBS NewsHour

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 12, 2017. He stated that he had never had any conversations with Russian officials about any type of interference in the 2016 presidential election. Sessions declined to discuss conversations he had with President Trump about the firing of former FBI director James Comey or his own recusal from the FBI investigation of possible Russian ties to the election. Sessions’ reluctance to answer questions created frustration on the part of Democratic senators.

    June 14, 2017 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour

    Grades: 6-12
  • Comey Hearing Outcome | PBS NewsHour

    Former FBI Director James Comey testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, and his testimony revealed new information about the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Republicans and Democrats showed differing approaches to the controversy. Democrats’ questions focused on the behavior of Trump and his associates, while Republicans’ questions focused on Comey’s behavior, casting doubt on his actions and statements going back to the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Comey made it clear that he think that the president cannot be relied on to tell the truth.

    June 9, 2017 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Young Conservatives Support Climate Action | PBS NewsHour

    For the purposes of time, we recommend watching through 5:53.

    The causes of climate change is one of many issues seen as dividing Democratic and Republican lawmakers. While members of the GOP remain skeptical that climate change is man-made, many Democrats continue to push for more environmental protections, including limits on fossil fuel emissions. A growing movement among young conservatives, including evangelical Christians, supports environmental regulations. They say it’s important to act as faithful stewards of the earth. One group, the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, has grown to 10,000 members in the past five years.

    May 18, 2017 video and resouce materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • White House Wavers on Reasons Behind Comey Firing | PBS NewsHour

    For the purposes of time, we recommend watching through 4:52.

    Since the firing of FBI Director James Comey on May 9, 2017, the White House has contradicted itself several times on the reasoning behind President Donald Trump’s decision. In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump said Comey told him on three separate occasions that he was not being investigated, and maintained that he would have fired Comey with or without the recommendation of Justice Department officials. This response from Trump contradicts statements made by Vice President Mike Pence, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders; Pence, Spicer, and Sanders all maintained that the decision to fire Comey stemmed from the Justice Department’s concerns.

    May 12, 2017 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12
  • President Trump Fires FBI Director James Comey | PBS NewsHour

    For the purposes of time, we recommend watching through 4:10.

    In a surprise move, President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey May 9, 2017 after receiving recommendations from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Reactions to Comey’s firing have tended to fall along party lines. Democratic lawmakers expressed concern that Comey’s firing comes at the same time that the FBI is conducting an investigation into possible inappropriate ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. They have repeatedly asked for an independent prosecutor into the matter. Most Republican lawmakers said they do not believe Comey’s firing will affect the investigation and that Trump has the legal authority to remove Comey from his position as he sees fit.

    May 10, 2017 video and resource materials from PBS NewsHour.

    Grades: 6-12

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