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Striking a Balance on Student Free Speech

This lesson will encourage students to investigate Supreme Court cases in conjunction with the Annenberg Classroom video “First Amendment: Student Freedom of Speech” to evaluate the decisions handed down by the Court in the effort to find the balance between a school’s need for order and a student’s right to expression. Students will explore five Supreme Court cases with the purpose of determining if the Court’s decisions helped or hindered defining “protected speech” for students in public school environments. The key student free speech cases are: Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, Bethel v. Fraser, Morse v. Frederick, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, and Mahanoy School District v. B.L.

Video

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.

Video

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.

Freedom of Assembly
Handout

In this lesson students gain insight into the many challenges involved in defining and protecting free speech. They also learn about principles that come from U.S. Supreme Court decisions, such as Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District and Morse v. Frederick, and case law that are applied to define the limits for us today.

Video

This documentary examines the First Amendment’s protection of a free press as well as the historic origins of this right and the ramifications of the landmark ruling in New York Times v. United States, the Pentagon Papers case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prior restraint is unconstitutional.

Timeline

The First Amendment protects the free press, including television, radio and the Internet. The media are free to distribute a wide range of news, facts, opinions and pictures.

Timeline

The First Amendment allows citizens to express and to be exposed to a wide range of opinions and views. It was intended to ensure a free exchange of ideas even if the ideas are unpopular. Freedom of speech encompasses not only the spoken and written word, but also all kinds of expression (including non-verbal communications, such as sit-ins, art, photographs, films and advertisements).

Timeline

The First Amendment’s free exercise clause allows a person to hold whatever religious beliefs he or she wants, and to exercise that belief by attending religious services, praying in public or in private, proselytizing or wearing religious clothing, such as yarmulkes or headscarves. Also included in the free exercise clause is the right not to believe in any religion, and the right not to participate in religious activities. Second, the establishment clause prevents the government from creating a church, endorsing religion in general, or favoring one set of religious beliefs over another.

Timeline

This timeline addresses freedom of speech and the press, freedom of assembly and the right to petition the government, and freedom of religion.