Social Media & Student Speech

From the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts  

As the website to this resource notes:  "This highly interactive program combines the vampire craze and social media to give high school students the opportunity to wrestle with a current issue by participating in a trial and jury deliberations."  The program outline applies the precedent set in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, the school newspaper censorship case, to a fictional case.

This fictional case can be taught in two ways, via a scripted witness stand exchange or through an Oxford style debate. Both formats can be used in a courtroom or a classroom. If the event is to be staged in a courtroom, a federal judge could preside and two attorneys could be brought in to serve as facilitators. If the program is performed in a classroom, the presenter (judge/teacher) would facilitate and students would play all of the roles.


How do you use it?

This lesson, albeit excellent, entails a great deal of preparation, both logistically and programmatically.  Yet the description of the case is easy to understand, and the instructions are clear, whichever way the resource is to be employed:  as a courtroom simulation or an Oxford-style debate. 

Either exercise is hands-on, and puts students directly into various roles in court.  It is likely preferable, however, to save the simulation/debate until after the students are taught the key concepts of Hazelwood.  In order to both follow the case, and participate effectively, students need to have to have prior knowledge of the law in regards to students' rights. 

Students with little knowledge of their free speech rights may feel left out and confused during this simulation.  The "Freedom of the Press and School Newspapers" lesson plan listed on this website — which gives a good working understanding of the Supreme Court's Hazelwood decision — would make a solid warm-up for this more interactive and formal resource on School Speech.   

Who is the audience?

This resource demands a great deal from both a presenter/judge and the students, both in terms of engagement and preparation.  As such, therefore, it is best suited to a high school or college setting where students have the social and intellectual maturity to learn from the mock trial simulation or the Oxford debate exercise.

What other resources will complement this?

  1. 45 Words   Video & lesson Plan from the Newseum (H, A)  
  2. Freedom of the Press & School Newspapers  Lesson plan from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H, A)
  3. Pillars of the First Amendment  Lesson plan from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (M, H, A)

Additional Recommended Resources Off-Site Links

  1. A Constitutional Timeline
    • Multi-aged audience timeline that highlights key dates in history of Constitution, with links to text, audio and video clips. From National Constitution Center's Constitution Day site. 
  2. Interactive Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that enables users to search Constitution by keyword or topic, with access to explanatory materials throughout. From National Constitution Center.   
  3. The Annenberg Guide to the United States Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that lists the text of each section of every article in the Constitution, and provides explanation of what the text means in plain language.  From the Leonore Annenberg Institute of Civics. 
  4. Understanding the Federal Courts
    • Multi-aged online textbook-type document that includes sections on Article III, the Federal Court system and the geographical boundaries of the Courts of Appeal and the District Courts, the code of conduct for judges, juror qualifications, exemptions and terms of service, as well as categories of bankruptcy cases.  From the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.