An In-Depth Study, Investigating Justice and Guided By Statistics

Ms. Schibuk’s 7th grade math class is currently studying statistics and probability. To give real-world meaning to their learning, and to connect to the themes of race and justice that students have been learning about with Ms. Patilla, Ms. Schibuk decided to create a project about racial profiling and stop-and-frisk practices in Boston.  Students have been using their growing knowledge of statistics and probability to analyze and interpret data about the racial distribution of police-civilian encounters in the city of Boston. They began by conducting a probability simulation in which they determined the racial breakdown of the city of Boston, and compared it to the racial breakdown of police-civilian encounters between 2007 and 2010. They then created pie charts in Google Sheets to compare these two sets of data. From there, they read pieces of a report by the Massachusetts ACLU, title “Black, Brown, and Targeted.”  Last Friday an ACLU lawyer, and the author of the report, came to speak with students about his work for the ACLU and his work as a lawyer committed to social justice.
This week, the middle schoolers continued to build and apply their understanding of statistics as they analyzed data about the reported reasons for which individuals are stopped and frisked or interrogated by police.  They created a bar graph to compare the different categories for which someone can be stopped, and then calculated probabilities for different hypothetical reasons a person might be stopped by a police officer in Boston.  This week they were fortunate to get to speak with two police officers, both Hispanic officers serving the city of Boston, and ask them about their experience working as police officers in Boston.DSC_4482
Speaking with the Police officers helped the class to understand that issues of race, justice, and policing are complicated and multi-facetted.  Next week, the 7th grade students will be working in both Math and ELA class to create educational pamphlets about issues relating to policing, race, and justice.  As an interdisciplinary project, their pamphlets will contain narrative writing, graphs, and written data analysis.