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Researching essential student media law cases


Students will research and report in groups on law cases pertaining to scholastic press rights. Students will evaluate and analyze a court case for presentation to the class. The presentation will include: background, main points, decision and its implication. This lesson is designed to take multiple days, half for research and half for presentations.


  • Students will research a court case in groups of two or three depending on class size.
  • Students will analyze the case decision and its implication as it pertains to student expression or student media.
  • Students will read the text of an assigned court decision.
  • Students will research the impact of the decision, which often includes the long-term changes created by the decision.
  • Students will teach other students about the case while using a visual aid.
  • Students will begin to evaluate the sources they use in research.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.10 By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literacy nonfiction in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5 Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2a Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2b Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


150 minutes: (3 50-minute class periods)


Computer lab and Internet access

Two (2) court case lists: one cut into slips separating each case and another complete

Something to put cut cases in to randomly select cases (hat).

Handout: Court case list

Rubric: Case research

Handout: Case graphic organizer for presentations

Sample case: Tinker

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

1. Assigning cases — 5 minutes

Teacher should either create the groups for the members of the class or ask them to create their own groups. (Teacher could easily create the student groups by dividing the number of cases by two or three and then asking students to count off.)

Have one member of the group pick a random case from the “hat.” Teacher should write pairings on the complete case list.

Remind students they should cite the origin of their information.

2. Overview — 10 minutes

Instruct students of the assignment parameters as outlined on the assignment sheet. Following this, teachers should review the expectations with students using the rubric.

Use the Tinker example provided to model expectations. Again, use the rubric to reinforce expectations.

3. Research — all but the final 10 minutes of the hour.

Students should be able to find the necessary information through both a general search and through the sites provided in the resource list.

After the first 10 minutes of research, ask students to show you using fist to five how easy it was to find the required background information. Ask students to share their best resource they found. Remind students to cite their sources.

Teacher should circulate to help students comprehend and interpret the reading. Encourage students to read the actual court decision.

4. With 10 minutes left — create a plan

Have students stop researching and instead create a plan on how they will finish the assignment before presentations start the following day.

Again, remind students they need to cite their sources.

Days 2 and 3

1. Assigning presentation order — 5 minutes

Teacher should ask one person from each group to write their case name and year on the board. Teacher should then ask students to present in chronological order since justices use these other cases as precedent.

2. Presentations — 40 minutes

Groups should present their case and case impact to the class. Class should take notes (please remind them the cases will be on the final test).

3. Wrap up — all but the final 10 minutes of the hour.

Students should journal about which case outcome surprised them most and why.

Extension Assignment:

Students could record a 50-70 second audio clip explaining the significance of the case assigned. Please listen to the two samples from the Scholastic Press Rights Minute: Press Rights Minute #14 – The Hazelwood Decision and Press Rights Minute #15 – The Tinker Standard.

See extension rubric for further expectations.