Students’ Constitutional Rights in Public School
by Wendy Thowdis
When may the rights of students in school be restricted?
- Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, 1969, Boston College
- New Jersey v. T.L.O., 1985, Legal Information Institute, Cornell University
- Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 1988, Legal Information Institute, Cornell University
- U.S. Bill of Rights, Our Documents
- 14th Amendment, Our Documents
- "Constitutional Topic: Student Rights," USConstitution.net
- "Supreme Court Case Worksheet for Expert Jigsaw" (three blank copies per student) (attached)
- "Guidelines for Participants in a Socratic Seminar", StudyGuide.org
- "Lincoln and Civil Liberties" by John F. Travers Gilder Lehrman Institute
Hand out a copy of the Bill of Rights and the 14th amendment to each student & review the rights granted in each of the amendments. Ask students to hypothesize which amendment rights they believe would become an issue in court cases involving students’ rights in school.
Expert Jigsaw Activity:
Divide the class into six Home groups to read the following three Supreme Court Case documents (linked above)
- Two groups read Tinker v. Des Moines, 1969
- Two groups read New Jersey v. T.L.O., 1985
- Two groups read Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, 1988
Each group should then "count-off" and assign a number for each member. Have all of the 1’s , 2’s & 3’s meet as a large group to read the same assigned case. If the class is large and therefore each of these groups is large, have them work in pairs or triads while in these Expert groups to fill out the "Supreme Court Case Worksheet." Make sure they fully explain each answer they place on the chart in their own words, so they will be able to teach their Home groups later. Explain that they should share answers & discuss the case freely with other Expert group members to help them gain a clear understanding of their case.
Have the Expert group members return to their Home groups & take turns teaching each other the three cases, filling out a new "Supreme Court Case Worksheet" for each of the three cases.
The last task for the Home Groups is for them to make at least three "brilliant generalizations" about the similarities & differences between the three cases. Hints to offer: look at chronology, the interpretation of Constitutional amendments, and the explanations about students’ rights v. non-students’ rights.
("Brilliant Generalizations" = statements made using higher order thinking skills from Bloom’s Taxonomy: apply, compare/contrast, classify, infer, predict, hypothesize, formulate new idea)
Conduct a full class discussion where each groups shares their "brilliant generalizations."
Conduct a Socratic Seminar using the Essential Question:
- When may the rights of students in school be restricted?
Use the "Guidelines for Participants in a Socratic Seminar" and the GLI History Now Lesson, "Lincoln and Civil Liberties" as an example to stage this activity.
Conduct a Mock Trial of a lower court ruling in any of the three cases listed above. Have each student write a testimony brief that could be used to prove guilt or innocence for the defendant(s). Instruct them to include the information from the Summary Chart they created on their "Supreme Court Case Worksheets" in their briefs.
Have students conduct individual research projects on the following students’ rights issues:
- Drug testing in school
- School prayer
- Saying the Pledge of Allegiance
- Sex Education
- Sexual Harassment