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?

You Can’t Say That: In My Opinion

Apply what you learned about constitutional exceptions to the First Amendment by studying a modern situations. Be sure to summarize the facts of the situation and then present your opinion about whether the actions of the individual in the scenario were protected by the First Amendment. If you disagree with the court, school or law enforcement’s decision, be sure to explain why you disagree.

Grades 6-12
Rights and Responsibilities
Lesson Plans

Respecting Freedom of Speech

In the course of this lesson, students will consider the point where respect and freedom of expression intersect. For homework the night before, students are asked to review the language of the First Amendment, as well as examine their definition of respect by responding to a writing prompt. The next day, students are asked to consider five controversial instances of “free speech” and participate in a discussion that attempts to draw the distinction between: private versus government action regarding speech; rights of the speakers and rights of the listener; and right to free speech and responsibility to act or speak with respect. What role does freedom of expression play in maintaining a free and open society?

The Sedition Act: Certain Crimes Against the United States

The Sedition Act of 1798 passed during John Adam’s administration by the Federalist Party touched off a lively debate about the right of free speech. It also presented an early test case to the citizens and government of the United States. In times of war or imminent danger, how do you balance the need for security with the rights of individuals? How can partisan politics affect the process of shaping security policies?

The Press and the Civil Rights Movement

Civil rights leaders effectively used the First Amendment and the press to expose the injustices of racial segregation. Reporters who covered the civil rights struggle give up close and personal accounts. Learn more about the First Amendment’s power to bring about profound social change and the role and challenges a free press embraces when tackling controversial issues.

Grades 7-12
Rights and Responsibilities
Closed Captions

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.

‘Speech Is More Than Speaking’

“Speech Is More Than Speaking” is a We The Future Contest winner for Best Short Film by Jacob VanDerwerken. What is Freedom of Speech if you cannot speak? Using American Sign Language, Jacob VanDerwerken explains the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech is not just verbal language. This video is a discussion starter for students and adults.

Grades 6-12
Foundations of Democracy
Special Needs/Language Focus

The Suffrage and the Civil Rights Reform Movements

This short comparative analysis activity involves comparing and contrasting two images of marches for freedom: a 1917 Bastille Day march for women’s suffrage, and the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Students will consider the similarities and differences between these two images and hypothesize what major differences these photos might imply about the two social reform movements.