Landmark Supreme Court Case Tinker v Des Moines (1969)

After wearing black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam War, three students – two of them siblings – were suspended by the Des Moines Independent Community School District for disrupting learning. The parents of the children sued the school for violating the children’s rights to free speech. The landmark Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Districtdetermined it was a First Amendment violation for public schools to punish students for expressing themselves in certain circumstances. This lesson uses expert analysis, perspectives from the Tinkers, oral arguments and archival video to explore the case and the legacy of the ruling.

Grades 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

Landmark Supreme Court Case: Engel v. Vitale (1962)

Deliberations over the role of religion in public life are as old as the United States itself – and, of course, a significant part of the causation of there being a United States at all! In numerous cases, the Supreme Court has examined the question of if and how religion can be integrated into public schools and established parameters for that inclusion. One of those landmark decisions was the 1962 case of Engel v. Vitale, involving a challenge to the daily formal recitation of the “Regents Prayer” by New York schoolchildren.

Grades 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Media

Landmark Supreme Court Case: Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886)

The Supreme Court’s decision in this case was seen as trailblazing. It struck down legislation aimed at closing Chinese-operated laundries in San Francisco and guaranteed noncitizens the Constitution’s protections. It was the first case to use the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits states from denying any person within their jurisdiction the equal protection of the law. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled laws with discriminatory intent were unconstitutional. This landmark case has been cited over 150 times since the Court’s decision.

Grades 9-12
History
Lesson Plans

Women and the U.S. Supreme Court

This lesson plan opens with reflective questions that ask students to consider their prior knowledge of Supreme Court justices and how many have been women. Students then watch, analyze, and respond to an introductory video that details the impetus for law professor Renee Knake Jefferson’s co-authoring of “Shortlisted: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court.” Next, students explore two clips that include President Richard Nixon’s shortlisting of two women for the Supreme Court and how gender diversity on the U.S. Supreme and state courts compare to courts in other democracies. Students then engage in a choice board exploration activity, where they choose to study four of nine different topics. The lesson concludes with a reflective prompt and offers an optional extension activity.

Grades 9-12
History
Interactives

Constitution 101 Course

Constitution 101 is a 15-unit asynchronous, semester-long curriculum that provides students with a basic understanding of the Constitution’s text, history, structure, and caselaw. Drawing on primary source documents from our new, curated online Founders’ Library—containing over 170 historical texts and over 70 landmark Supreme Court cases selected by leading experts of different perspectives—students will study the historical and philosophical foundations of America’s founding principles from a range of diverse voices The curriculum guides students to think like constitutional lawyers—cultivating the skills necessary to analyze all sides of constitutional questions. Each module includes detailed materials for classroom educators, as well as opportunities for guided discovery and practice and tools to check for understanding.

Grades 9-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Modules (Teaching Unit)

Landmark LGBT Supreme Court Cases

In this lesson, students will view a series of video clips that examine six major Supreme Court cases that dealt with LGBT issues. Students will identify the key issues and arguments made in these cases. After learning the background on these cases, students will learn more about Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinions in three of these cases and the Court’s reasoning.

Grades 9-12
History
Lesson Plans

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.

Rule of Law for All Curriculum

Rule of law is a founding principle of the United States and a bedrock of democracy. It ensures that no one is above the law, that laws are publicly and widely known, that laws apply equally to all and are equally enforced, and that disputes are settled by an independent judiciary. This textbook definition is in contrast with many Americans’ lived experiences. For some people in the United States, particularly the most marginalized, rule of law has always been in crisis. Though the term “rule of law” may rarely be mentioned in state standards, its concepts are embedded in many social studies courses. Fundamental rights, limiting and balancing government power, and an open and transparent government are just a few of these concepts. These Street Law-designed lessons and resources are designed for flexibility and ease of use. The seven core lessons have been designed with middle and high school social studies teachers in mind, for courses ranging from U.S. history to civics and law to global studies. The eight lessons are: Introduction to Rule of Law; Controlling Corruption and Abuse of Power; Open and Transparent Government; Fair and Effective Court System; Fundamental Rights; Peace and Stability; Limiting and Balancing Government Power; and the Culminating Activity: Addressing a Rule of Law Change in My Community.

Grades 7-12
Foundations of Democracy
Modules (Teaching Unit)