Dialogue on Youth and Justice

This downloadable
document is excellent for teaching three subjects: (1) the development of the juvenile justice system; (2) whether juveniles should ever be treated as adults; and (3) the extent of the reach of the Bill of Rights to students and juveniles, with a focus on the 1st, 4th and 5th Amendments.  

The materials include background information on each of the three parts — “The History of the Juvenile Justice System,” “Should Juveniles Ever Be Treated as Adults,” and “Young People and the Constitution" — and sample questions to pose to the audience at the conclusion of each part. Rules for a facilitated discussion are also provided, which may or may not be necessary.

Sidebars are effectively used to highlight different court cases and concepts, along with discussion questions.  Relevant examples throughout the document show just how the concepts are applied in the courts.
The lesson plan notes that one will need “between 45 and 90 minutes to make the Dialogue a meaningful experience.”  Given how much information is included in the document, even 90 minutes may be too short, especially if the goal is to facilitate discussion on the material.  Ideally one would turn this material into a multi-day lesson plan that would be several hour-long sessions over 2-3 days.

If that schedule is not possible, it would be still be impracticable to teach all three parts in one setting, although parts 1 and 2 could perhaps be combined. Part 3, "Young People and the Constitution," is more clearly a separate topic from the other 2 parts. Each part involves at least an hour of material, and Part 3 could easily be expanded to 90 minutes.  Part 3 is arguably of the greatest interest to students, as the topics in that section include: student speech rights and the power to censor or curtail these rights, student privacy rights and the 4th Amendment, and due process rights accorded to students. 

Students will get the most out of the lesson if they read the downloadable document in advance, but the entire three-part document is written in an easy to understand style and is only 19 pages long. No special A/V materials are required. 

Questions for review at the end of each section are a good way for students to show what they’ve learned, although the review questions may not add much to the teaching component.  By contrast, the “Discussion Questions” at the end of each of the three parts provide a judge or teacher with scenarios designed to facilitate an active discussion and understanding of the issues in that section.

This resource is designed for a high school and older audience. 

What other resources will complement this?

  1. An Act of Courage: The Arrest Records of Rosa Parks  Lesson Plan from the National Archives (M, H)
  2. Balancing Free Speech and Fair Trial  Lesson Plan from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H)
  3. Courts in the Classroom  Videos from the Judicial Council of California and the Administrative Office (P, M, H)
  4. Dialogue on Youth and Justice  Lesson Plan from the American Bar Association (H, A)  
  5. Interactive Guide to the Sixth Amendment  Interactive document from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (M, H)
  6. Teen House Party Search  Lesson Plan from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (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.