Jason Pusey is a social studies teacher at South View Middle School in Edina, Minn., who was determined to teach about the impeachment process to his seventh-grade students. Knowing how controversial the process on Capitol Hill would be, he decided to alert the families of his students about what he was doing, and why and how he was teaching the subject to their children.

Here’s the letter he sent to them after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced an impeachment inquiry into the conduct of President Trump. Now, as the public phase begins in the House with Wednesday’s hearings, Pusey’s students understand the process.

Dear Families,
Not only do we study history in social studies we also live through it. As you (hopefully) know we started the year by trying to get an understanding of how the U.S. government works, talking about (Constitutional) things like the three branches of government, separation of powers, and checks and balances. It is a lot to take in and can seem removed and abstract. That is until current events brings those checks and balances to the top of every newspaper, the beginning of every news broadcast, and every other twitter post (at least in my feed). I took time at the beginning of each class over the past couple of days to talk about what is going on regarding the announcement by Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi of opening an impeachment inquiry. Most students had “heard” about it, but most were mistaken about what it actually meant at this stage. I feel that 7th graders should have an accurate idea of what is going on in the world around them, understanding the historical implications of recent developments, and be able to correctly talk about it with peers and family. We talked, we learned, we know more as a result. Clearing up confusion can be powerful in unlocking curiosity. In that spirit, and because I don’t think just 7th graders, but their families, really everyone, should have a basic understanding of these events, I would like to share what we talked about and in the process clear up any confusion you may have and unlock your own curiosity.
We focused mainly on process, not so much on substance. Here are some highlights.
* Inquiry does not equal impeachment. The announcement amounted to more of a formal declaration of an investigation by the House of Representatives with the stated purpose of determining whether charges should be brought against President Trump.
* The Constitution defines what is impeachable: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers (which has been interpreted to include Federal Judges) of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
* Impeachment is a two step process. Step 1 takes place in the House of Representatives. Think of this as the stage that would end in charges being brought and voted on by members of the House. It takes a simple majority to impeach at this stage. There are 435 Representatives, meaning that it would take 218 to pass “Articles of Impeachment”. There are currently 235 Democrats, 199 Republicans and 1 Independent in the House.
* Step 2 takes place in the Senate. Think of this as the trial, with all 100 Senators being the Jury. If it is the President who has been impeached by the House, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial. Their role is mainly to run the trial. They do not have a vote. It takes 2/3 of the Senate to convict. That would be 67 Senators. There are currently 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 2 Independents (who caucus with the Democrats).
* According to the Constitution, if someone is convicted in the Senate the remedy “shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor.”
* There have been two U.S. Presidents who have been impeached by the House of Representatives in U.S. history: Andrew Johnson in the years following the Civil War, and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both were found not guilty by the Senate and thus allowed to remain in office.
* The only other time an impeachment inquiry has started against a President was of Richard Nixon. He resigned before the process could be brought to a vote in the House of Representatives.
* In US history, just 19 federal officials — one senator, one Cabinet secretary, two presidents, and 15 judges — were impeached. Eight have been convicted and removed from office, all of them federal judges, the latest of which happened in 2010.
I hope you have found this helpful and that it will unlock curiosity inspired conversations at home.
Yours in History,
Jason Pusey