Resources on the First Amendment, intended to supplement the January-February 2006 issue of L.A. Youth.

By Libby Hartigan, Managing Editor

Grades: 8-12
Subjects: Journalism, social studies, language arts, government, history

Overview of lesson plan:
Our recommended resources for teaching students about the First Amendment.

January is the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1988 Hazelwood decision, which limited student press rights, and inspired our founder, Donna Myrow, to start L.A. Youth. During the past 18 years, while many high school journalism programs have struggled, we have fought to ensure that there would be a forum for teen voices in Los Angeles.

When the Knight Foundation surveyed 112,003 American high school students on their views of the First Amendment in 2005, it was disturbing to see how few students understand or appreciate their rights. Thirty-five percent of students thought the First Amendment went too far; 36 percent thought the press should be required to get government approval before publishing the news. (For complete information on this study, including responses from principals and faculty, see

As we were preparing the articles for the January-February 2006 issue of L.A. Youth, we were startled by the question that our reporter Selina MacLaren wanted to ask attorney Mark Goodman: Does the Constitution apply to teenagers? In an era when teens may think they have no rights, teachers should inform their students about their rights as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Take advantage of the following recommended resources:

January-February 2006 issue of L.A. Youth

MySpace articles: Students can learn about a school that cautioned students about their MySpaces. An interview with attorney Mark Goodman of the Student Press Law Center helps students understand that schools, even private schools, cannot always control student speech outside of school. After reading the interview, ask your students to review what happened at Selina’s school. Do they think that the school’s actions were lawful? Do they think the school’s actions were ethical, considering some of the real dangers posed by MySpace? (One example of the problems was described by Lissette Rodriguez. Someone impersonated her on MySpace and caused trouble with her friends.)

First Amendment quiz: Ask your students to fill out and mail in the First Amendment quiz on page 25 of the newspaper. Three entrants, who answer all the questions correctly, will win $50.

Illinois First Amendment Center
Terrific 82-page curriculum on the First Amendment which teachers can request to have mailed on a CD or as hard copy, or e-mailed as a PDF. It includes a clear, concise lesson for teaching about the history of the First Amendment with references to specific Supreme Court decisions. There are interesting activities, quizzes, multiple-choice tests and a great one-page summary of nine important Supreme Court decisions about the First Amendment.

Sample activity:
–Students must defend the Constitution against a group of Senators who decide that all media must be approved by the government, all Americans must take a loyalty oath and join an official U.S. religion, and clubs are cancelled until approved by government officials.

First Amendment Schools
This project of the First Amendment Center is a national effort to transform how schools teach and practice the meaning of the First Amendment. More than 90 schools have become involved so far.

An excellent, student-oriented quiz with 17 questions on the First Amendment. The quiz is a downloadable two-page PDF. After taking the quiz, students can compare their answers with those from a national survey.

Helpful lesson plans on each of the five rights guaranteed by the First Amendment can help students consider important topics such as the Patriot Act, the Pledge of Allegiance, school prayer and journalism ethics.

Student Press Law Center

This wonderful resource,, offers solid answers to students’ frequently asked questions on student press rights, encyclopedic research on press freedom from copyright to “cyberlaw;” news on recent censorship cases and even an online legal request form to respond to students’ and teachers’ specific problems with censorship.

This detailed 30-question First Amendment quiz, which must be taken online, is like taking a quick review of everything you need to know on the topic. As you answer each question, you are provided with links to learn more about that aspect of the law.

Channel One

Teen-friendly online quiz on the First Amendment

A Constitution that can be downloaded to your iPod.