First Amendment: Student Freedom of Speech

The First Amendment’s right to free speech is one of our most important rights as citizens. But what does freedom of speech mean for students in public schools? How do you balance a school’s need for order with a student’s right to free expression? This film explores the evolution of student free speech rights through Supreme Court cases, from Tinker v. Des Moines to Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., the case of the Snapchatting cheerleader.

Second Amendment: D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago

The film “Second Amendment: D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago” examines the history of guns and gun ownership in our society from the Revolutionary War to modern times and the complicated debate over what the founders intended when they wrote the Second Amendment. Does it protect a right of individuals to keep and bear arms? Or is it a right that can be exercised only through militia organizations like the National Guard? 

Freedom of Assembly: The Right to Protest

This lesson will focus on freedom of assembly, as found in the First Amendment. Students will consider the importance of the right to assemble and protest by analyzing cases where First Amendment rights were in question. Using the case National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, students will consider if the government is ever allowed to control the ability to express ideas in public because viewpoints are controversial, offensive, or painful. Students will use primary sources and Supreme Court cases to consider whether the courts made the correct decision in the National Socialist Party v. Skokie case. Students will be able to form an opinion on the essential question: Is the government ever justified to restrict the freedom to assemble?

Freedom of Assembly: National Socialist Party v. Skokie

This film explores the First Amendment right of the “people peaceably to assemble” through the lens of the U.S. Supreme Court case National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie. The legal fight between neo-Nazis and Holocaust survivors over a planned march in a predominantly Jewish community led to a ruling that said the neo-Nazis could not be banned from marching peacefully because of the content of their message.

Habeas Corpus: The Guantanamo Cases

One of our oldest human rights, habeas corpus safeguards individual freedom by preventing unlawful or arbitrary imprisonment. This documentary examines habeas corpus and the separation of powers in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks as the Supreme Court tried to strike a balance between the president’s duty to protect the nation and the constitutional protection of civil liberties in four major Guantanamo Bay cases: Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Rasul v. Bush, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and Boumediene v. Bush.
Closed captions available in English and Spanish.

The 19th Amendment: A Woman’s Right to Vote

Voting is the most basic right of a citizen and the most important right in a democracy. When you vote, you are choosing the people who will make the laws. For almost a century and a half of our nation’s history, women were barred from exercising this fundamental right. This film explores the long, difficult struggle for women to win the right to vote. It’s about citizenship, the power of the vote, and why women had to change the Constitution with the 19th Amendment. The film includes primary sources and commentary from historians, legal scholars, and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy.

The Supremacy Clause

Tension between the states and the federal government has been a constant throughout U.S. history. This video explores the supremacy clause in Article VI of the Constitution and key moments in the power struggle, including the landmark case McCulloch v. Maryland. In McCulloch, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that the supremacy clause unequivocally states that the “Constitution, and the Laws of the United States … shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”

Grades 8, 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Video

Jury Service: Our Duty and Privilege as Citizens

In America, the responsibility to protect individual rights and promote the common good ultimately rests with its citizens, not the government. When citizens participate in thoughtful and responsible ways, the welfare of our constitutional democracy is ensured. While most civic participation is voluntary, the call to serve on a jury is not. It comes as an order by the court.

Freedom of Speech: Finding the Limits

As part of the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution, but it is not defined by it. That task is left up to the people through a representative government that makes the laws and a judicial system that interprets and applies the laws to resolve disputes. In this lesson, based on the Annenberg Classroom video “A Conversation on the Constitution: Freedom of Speech,” students gain insight into the many challenges involved in defining and protecting free speech. They also learn about principles that come from Supreme Court decisions and case law that are applied to define the limits for us today.

Grades 11, 12, 9, 10
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

Equal Justice Under Law

In its first constitutional challenge to the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear a case brought by a Chinese immigrant, not an American citizen. Yick Wo believed city ordinances had been unfairly applied to him, so he challenged their constitutionality under the equal protection clause, and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court.