Government Speech Under the First Amendment

This lesson teaches students, through a simulation related to government-sponsored Confederate monuments, about the government-speech doctrine under the First Amendment. In particular, this lesson aims to (1) introduce students to the issue of government speech; (2) teach the doctrine; (3) apply the doctrine in a contemporary context; and (4) critically analyze the doctrine.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9

The Amendments That Got Away

Students explore the constitutional amendment process, learn about three amendments that were not ratified, and simulate a state-level ratification process. The lesson fits into a variety of courses, including government, law, civics and history.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)

Under what conditions does the state’s interest in promoting compulsory education override parents’ First Amendment right to free exercise of religion? This resource is a case summary of Wisconsin v. Yoder, which tested the right of parents to withdraw their child from school for religious reasons.

  • Resource Type: ESL Appropriate, Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Schenck v. U.S. (1919)

Did Schenck’s conviction under the Espionage Act for criticizing the draft violate his First Amendment free speech rights? Schneck was convicted for distributing anti-draft leaflets because the leaflets allegedly caused insubordination.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

New York Times Co. v. U.S. (1971)

Did the government’s efforts to prevent two newspapers from publishing classified information given to them by a government whistle-blower violate the First Amendment protection of freedom of the press? The Washington Post published classified information despite a court injunction. That information changed American perception of the Vietnam War effort.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Engel v. Vitale (1962)

Does the recitation of a prayer in public schools violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? A Jewish student sued a New York school board over the daily recitation of a prayer.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Citizens United v. FEC (2010)

Does a law that limits the ability of corporations and labor unions to spend their own money to advocate the election or defeat of a candidate violate the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech? The Supreme Court has held that donations and campaign spending are forms of speech.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12