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brightener: A story, usually short, that is humorous or pleasing to the reader. It is also called a bright. News Reporting & Writing (Eighth Edition) by the Missouri Group. Copyright 2005. Reproduced by permission of Bedford/St. Martins.

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Darlene Tallman
English teacher
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Lesson Plans

Why Can’t I Say That?

Why Can’t I Say That?

Darlene Tallman at Henninger High School in Syracuse, N.Y.

Darlene Tallman
Henninger High School
Syracuse, N.Y.

Title: Why Can't I Say That? Expedition 1

Student goals

  • Students will introduce themselves to the First Amendment of the Constitution.
  • Students will explore how they may exercise their First Amendment Rights in a school setting.


  • Define the relationship of the First and 14th Amendment in regards to student rights in their own words.
  • Analyze and evaluate their standings as U.S. citizens and scholastic journalists.
  • Define prior restraint and prior review.


Student content below:

The First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assembe. and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

It sounds simple and straight forward doesn't it? Let's explore the issue more carefully.

Directions: Visit the following links in the order that they appear on the page. Carefully read through the materials on the site. Be sure to keep good notes so that you will be able to respond to the following questions in class discussion:

  1. How as a student journalist am I able to exercise my First Amendment rights?
  2. How far do my First Amendment rights go as a student?
  3. Are my rights being infringed upon by school rules? State laws? My parents?
Assignment: It's time to respond. Class will complete questions that apply. Answer them honestly. Complete your answers tonight and be ready to share them in class. Each class member will share their work with two other students. You must respond to your classmates responses. Tell whether you agree or disagree and why in your responses.
    • Visit the following site and answer the questions provided.
    • Don't get too carried away with this page. Simply read the First Amendment again. Follow any links that you want to, but they are not required. Try not to spend more than 10 minutes here.
    • This link simply states the First Amendment, but is also provides a link to West Virginia Board of Education v Barnette. The court in this case found that it was unconstitutional to mandate students say the pledge of allegiance in schools. How do you feel about that? Write your answers in notebook for classroom discussion.
  • Task 2

    • Visit the following links that discuss the First Amendment and the First Amendment in our lives. Do the assigned tasks and move to Task 3.
    • This link provides a copy of the First Amendment and links to various areas of life that court cases involving it have touched.
    • Follow three of the links to see how the court ruled. Be sure that the cases involve adults. Do you agree with the decisions? Think about why you agree or disagree. Add the cases that really interest you to your favorites to come back to later. Try not to spend more than 30 minutes here.
    • Visit the following links that discuss the First Amendment and the First Amendment in our lives. Do the assigned tasks and move to Task 4.
    • This link provides information specific to freedom of speech and the press starting with Madison's views on the importance of freedom of the press. Think about why Madison must have felt this freedom must be protected. Do you agree with him?
    • Visit the following links that discuss the First Amendment and the First Amendment in our lives. Do the assigned tasks and move to Task 3.
    • This link provides information on the differences between freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Be sure to take notes on the differences. Which requires a higher standard for truth?
    • Visit the following links that discuss the First Amendment and the First Amendment in our lives. Do the assigned tasks and move to the Task 6.
    • This link provides discussion over the concept of "prior restraint." Make sure that you are able to define "prior restraint".
    • Look for additional information on the differences between "prior restraint" and "prior review." Now write your definitions of both terms. Be ready for class discussion.
    • Read through the 14th Amendment provided below. Then do the assignment at the bottom of the page. The following text is the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is important because most First Amendment cases involving education only come before the Supreme Court if they are found applicable under the 14th Amendment. Usually such cases fall under the Equal Protection Clause or Due Process Clause in Section 1. Read through the amendment. If you need further clarification follow the links provided.
    • 14th Amendment – Rights Guaranteed Privileges and Immunities of Citizenship, Due Process and Equal Protection Amendment Text
      • Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
      • Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
      • Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
      • Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
      • Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
    • These two sites may help you understand the 14th Amendment more clearly. Visit them if you are having trouble understanding what you have read.

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