Disproportionate Minority Contact

Disproportionate minority contact (DMC) raises difficult issues for the American criminal justice system. It threatens victim cooperation with police and prosecutors, the participation of minority jurors, and the validity of judicial decisions among members of minority and majority communities alike. Most fundamentally, it challenges the basic American assumption that everyone receives “equal justice under law.” This unit highlights two different aspects of disproportionate minority contact.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Using Torture on Suspected Terrorists

This lesson introduces a definition of torture and provides information about its use in human history and today. It examines how most countries prohibit torture and explores why torture is still considered a possible tool for preventing future losses of innocent life. It also provides an opportunity to discuss some of the facts, the misperceptions, the arguments, and the alternatives surrounding this controversial practice.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

No Weapons Allowed

In this lesson, students learn not only that there is a need for rules, but that it is important to understand why a rule was made in order to obey it sensibly. This activity explores the purpose and intent of rules or laws and helps students realize that overly simple laws are difficult to interpret and good laws are difficult to write. This lesson is a good introduction to the writing of the Constitution and the role of legislators in developing laws.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 7, 8

Detaining U.S. Citizens as Enemy Combatants

This unit gives an overview of some of the issues relating to enemy combatants. It reviews some of the powers of Presidents during wartime, the rights of citizens here in the United States, and the ways the U.S. Supreme Court has tried to balance individual freedoms with national defense. And it presents a discussion model called “structured academic controversy” for exploring the facts, arguments, and options surrounding these issues.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Search and Seizure: Mapp v. Ohio

This documentary explores the Fourth Amendment case Mapp v. Ohio in which the Supreme Court ruled that evidence illegally obtained by police is not admissible in state courts. The 1961 case redefined the rights of the accused. A PDF lesson plan accompanies this video.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Special Needs/Language Focus, Translated Materials, Video
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Letter From Birmingham City Jail (Excerpts), Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK was leading a demonstration in Birmingham, Alabama where it was forbidden to make demonstrations. This was the first time King had decided to break the law for he believed that the law was unjust. While incarcerated he wrote a letter in reply to a letter published about accusations made on him in the Birmingham Post Herald.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

A Case Study: The Sheppard Murder Trial

In this four lesson unit, students read selected background material on the Sheppard murder case and discuss the assigned readings in class. Activities include analyzing a political cartoon and a primary source document, writing and delivering a closing statement, and developing a timeline of the various court decisions made in the Sheppard case.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Oral Histories
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Juvenile Justice: In our democracy, should violent juvenile offenders be punished as adults?

This lesson provides students with background information and arguments for and against punishing juveniles as adults for violent crimes. Students are encouraged to deliberate the issue and come to their own conclusions based on evidence and reason.

  • Resource Type: ESL Appropriate, ESL Materials, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

To Kill a Mockingbird Classroom Conversation

This civil conversation is designed to help students gain a deeper understanding of responsibility and justice; identify common ground among differing views; and enhance their reading, speaking, listening, and skills. Conversations for classroom purposes should have a time limit generally ranging from 15 analytical to 45 minutes and an additional five minutes to reflect on the effectiveness of the conversations.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12