Teaching Students About Khalil Wheeler-Weaver

In the era of true crime fascination, it is essential for educators to address the stories in a manner that informs and empowers their students, while fostering critical thinking skills. One case that deserves attention is that of Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, a serial killer caught in 2016. While the topic might seem grim, discussing the case can raise awareness on various issues such as online safety, victimology, police investigations, and racial biases. This article aims to provide guidelines for effectively teaching students about Khalil Wheeler-Weaver while addressing these concerns.


Khalil Wheeler-Weaver was a twenty-year-old New Jersey resident who targeted young black women he met through social media. Between August and November 2016, he murdered three victims and attempted to kill a fourth one who managed to escape. Wheeler-Weaver’s digital footprint, combined with one brave survivor’s testimony, led to his arrest and subsequent conviction in 2019.

Teaching Approach:

1. Facilitate open discussion: Before delving into details, gauge students’ familiarity with Khalil Wheeler-Weaver’s case, and facilitate an open conversation about their expectations towards learning about it. Acknowledge the sensitive nature of the subject matter and ensure students have a safe environment where they can thoughtfully engage in discussions.

2. Establish ground rules: Set clear expectations for respectful behavior and language when discussing sensitive topics such as violence, race, and gender. Encourage classroom equity by giving all students an equal opportunity to express their thoughts.

3. Provide context: Begin by providing historical context around serial killers—discuss how they have been portrayed in popular culture over time and highlight misconceptions perpetuated by movies and television programs.

4. Introduce the Case: Present an overview of Wheeler-Weaver’s crimes without dwelling excessively on gruesome details. Review the timeline of events, emphasizing the role of technology in his capture, and discuss the significance of critical evidence that led to his conviction.

5. Analyze social issues: Examine prevalent themes such as online safety, police investigations, and racial biases. Organize small group activities or debates to stimulate deeper inquiry.

6. Address online safety: Discuss the risks of connecting with strangers over the internet and equip students with practical strategies to stay safe online.

7. Explore victimology: Discuss why Wheeler-Weaver’s chosen victims were predominantly young black women, emphasizing disparities in media coverage and investigations when it comes to marginalized communities.

8. Criminal justice system: Evaluate the handling of Wheeler-Weaver’s case by law enforcement, noting successes as well as areas for improvement. Engage students in a comparative discussion about other serial killer cases from different countries and time periods to demonstrate larger patterns or perspectives.

9. Encourage creativity and critical thinking: Assign projects such as essays, presentations, or podcasts where students can explore an aspect of Wheeler-Weaver’s case that they find particularly intriguing.

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