the Video Unit 4
and Discussion (30 minutes)
Before viewing the video, discuss the following questions:
- What would the nation look like if there had never been a Bill
- What, if any, limits should be placed on individual liberty?
- How did Thoreau believe that most men serve the state?
- What are the implications of applying the bad tendency test
as opposed to the clear and present danger test in judging free
speech and press disputes?
- What should constitute an unreasonable search and seizure?
- What should be done when two guaranteed liberties collide?
- Should liberties not mentioned in the Bill of Rights (e.g.,
privacy) be protected by courts?
Watch the Video
(30 minutes) and Discuss (30 minutes) [Top]
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The video includes three segments:
1. First Amendment Rights Are Not Absolute
Like most high schools, Middlesex High in Saluda, Virginia, has
its own student-run school newspaper, The Big Blue Review. The paper's
student editors decided to run several stories on Valentine's Day
about sex education that included information about venereal diseases
and so-called "safe sex" practices. Carl McWhorter, faculty
advisor for the newspaper, supported the student editors, but Middlesex
High's principal objected to the content in the articles and decided
to suspend distribution of the Valentine's Day edition of the paper.
Although the students consulted attorneys from a legal defense center,
the issue was resolved without going to court. The experience seems
to have taught both sides how difficult it is to balance conflicting
- Should the press be allowed to publish anything?
- If there are limits on publication, can they be defined prior
- Should student publications be treated differently than privately
held media outlets?
- Do school administrators have special responsibilities to censor
student produced publications?
2. The Fourth Amendment and Student Drug Tests: The Case of Lindsay
Extracurricular activities such as sports, marching bands, choirs,
and quiz bowls, have long been a basic part of high school. In recent
years, out of concern for the continued drug use among some teens,
school administrators across the country have implemented random drug
testing programs for students involved in school sports and other
activities. Several court cases challenging these testing programs
have required the courts to grapple with the Fourth Amendment's protections
against unreasonable searches. Usually the issue involves conflicts
between students' rights to privacy and the schools' obligation to
ensure their safety and well being. In a closely watched 1995 decision,
the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that random drug tests for student athletes
were reasonable because team players already had a lower expectation
of privacy and because of the extra danger of physical exertion while
under the influence of drugs. But the question of whether schools
can require drug tests for students in non-sports programs remained
unsettled until 2002.
- What constitutes an unreasonable search?
- Is mandatory drug testing an invasion of privacy?
- Should all students be required to submit to drug tests?
- Should faculty and administrators be required to submit to drug
3. When Rights Collide: The Free Press Versus the Fair Trial
The Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants a right to a
fair trial, but the First Amendment guarantees the media the right
to cover criminal trials as well. This potential conflict between
two rights arose in the Sam Sheppard murder trial and subsequent
appeal. On the morning of July 4, 1954, Marilyn Reese Sheppard was
murdered. Her husband, Dr. Sam Sheppard, was initially questioned
by the police and released. But after several stories in the local
newspapers criticized the police for letting Sheppard go, he was
put on trial for the murder of his wife. The trial was a media spectacle
that included biased press coverage against Sheppard and improper
police statements calling Sheppard a "barefaced liar."
Sheppard was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to
life in prison. Was press coverage so obtrusive as to deny Sheppard
his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial? This famous case (still
famous as the inspiration for the television show and movie, The
Fugitive), struggled to balance these competing rights.
- Did Dr. Sheppard receive a fair trial?
- In the current media age, with its all-news channels, can any
high-profile defendant receive a fair trial?
- What measures can be taken to guarantee high-profile defendants
a fair trial?
and Discussion (30 minutes) [Top]
Try the Critical
Thinking activity for Unit 4. This is a good activity to
use with your students, too.
1. What Other Constitutional Rights Do You (Or Should You) Have?
The Ninth Amendment states: "The enumeration in the Constitution
of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others
retained by the people." What other rights or liberties that
are not articulated in the Constitution should we enjoy? For example,
should the right to privacy, which the Supreme Court affirmed in
Roe v. Wade (1973), be guaranteed through constitutional amendment?
Other possible rights might include a right to education, a right
to health care, or even a right to have fun as an extension of the
unalienable right to the "pursuit of happiness" that is
asserted in the Declaration of Independence. Discuss what other
rights might be covered by the Ninth Amendment.
2. Why Worry About Civil Liberties If You Don't Have Anything
To Hide? (15 minutes)
Some people express the attitude that says: "I don't mind drug
searches in school, or sobriety checkpoints, because I don't have
anything to hide." Do you agree with this statement? Use the
readings to discuss where various political thinkers might have
stood on this issue. Also consider what might be the value to society
if more people held that view. What might be the value to society
if more people questioned that view? Do the terms of this debate
change when the U.S. is in a wartime situation against a foreign
power, or in a domestic situation such as the "war on drugs?"
Why or why not?
Read the following Readings from Unit 5 to prepare for next week's
- Introduction-Civil Rights: Demanding Equality
- Tocqueville, Democracy in America: "The Idea of Rights
in the United States"
- W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
- Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,
An American Slave
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics
Read next week's Topic Overview.
You may want to have your students do the post-viewing activities:
What Other Constitutional Rights Do You (Or Should You) Have? and
Why Worry About Civil Liberties If You Don't Have Anything To Hide?
They are provided for you as blackline masters in the Appendix of
the print guide.