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Examining states’ student free expression status


This lesson exposes students to the presence or absence of state student freedom of expression laws. Students then research a current instance and use the information to participate in a Socratic seminar in which they look at the case and examine the need for the legislation.


  • Students will identify the status of student free expression bills or legislation in their state.
  • Students will research a current national censorship issue.
  • Students will recognize the need for legislation or education concerning their own state laws.

Common Core State Standards



Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.


Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1.d Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1.d Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task.


100 minutes


Internet access/computers

Article: Cure Hazelwood Map (link)

Resource: SPLC website

Slideshow: New Voices, part 1

Handout: New Voices

Exit slip: New Voices

Lesson step-by-step
1. Introduction — 10 minutes

Use the New Voices slideshow to introduce the movement and provide background information.

2. Research — 40 minutes

Working in partners, students should use the SPLC website to find an instance of censorship. Students should use the New Voices handout to help answer questions about the case. They may need to research the student free expression bill status in the state in which the case occurred.

Ask students to finish the handout for homework if this is the end of class. If class time remains, tell students they need to finish within the next five minutes.

3. Student-led/Socratic seminar large-group format — 45 minutes

(If you are unfamiliar with the Socratic seminar approach, please see this link and this link.) Students should work through (as naturally as possible) the Socratic seminar questions they have prepared.

4. Assessment — 5 minutes

Assign students to fill out the exit slip.


Provide students with the contact information for the New Voices movement in their state. If the state is one of the 10 with expanded student protections, they could create a plan to help educate their administrators and school board members on state law. If students are part of a state that has neither, encourage them to contact SPLC and their state director from the Journalism Education Association to see how they can become a part of starting a grassroots movement. Additionally, students should evaluate who might be for and against (by group, then legislators) and who might be good spokespersons to present such legislation. They also should create a plan as to which legislators and state organizations might help with this endeavor.