The First Amendment in Schools: A Guide from the First Amendment Center

The First Amendment in Schools: A Guide from the First Amendment Center

The First Amendment in Schools: A Guide from the First Amendment Center

The First Amendment in Schools: A Guide from the First Amendment Center

Synopsis

What are the First Amendment rights? How do you resolve questions about the rights of students, educators, and parents in a school setting? The First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution protects the most basic and cherished rights of society religion, speech, press, petition, and assembly. Anyone who wants to know more about those freedoms in the context of schools will find The First Amendment in Schools a rich resource for study and application. The book includes
• An explanation of the origins of the First Amendment
• A concise, chronological history of 50 legal cases, including many landmark decisions, involving the First Amendment in public schools
• Answers to frequently asked questions about the practice of the First Amendment in schools, covering specific issues of religious liberty, free speech, and press as they affect school prayer, use of school facilities, dress and speech codes, student press, book selection, and curriculum
• General information on First Amendment expression and practice in schools
• Information on more than 60 educational and advocacy programs and organizations for First Amendment resources
• A profile of First Amendment Schools This book provides a civic and legal framework for giving all members of the school community students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members a real voice in shaping the life of the school.

Excerpt

The notion that students should learn more about the Bill of Rights, and especially about the First Amendment, is hardly new. Roughly 40 years ago, three events focused national attention on this educational priority. A group of social studies teachers and curriculum developers, lawyers, and others gathered in Williamstown, Massachusetts, late in 1961 to prepare a report that became a blueprint for law-related education. The next year Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr., soon to be the most prominent jurist on free speech issues, took a leading role at a Washington-area conference on Bill of Rights education; that fall he gave the keynote address to the National Council for the Social Studies on the same theme. A few months later, the Ford Foundation commissioned a seminal study of law-related education by Chicago lawyer Alex Elson, whose report gave further momentum to curricular emphasis on civil rights and civil liberties.

These efforts had a disquieting antecedent. During the 1950s, several surveys of high school students and recent graduates revealed an appalling lack of knowledge about the Bill of Rights. Such a discovery was the more alarming because it came at the height of the Cold War, when the nation was challenged by fears of Communism and subversion on one hand and by the excesses of McCarthyism on the other. At a time when freedoms were being sorely tested and when judgments were being made about civil rights and liberties in the courts, in Congress, and even in state and local councils, educators were startled to learn how little the nation’s schools were doing to prepare future citizens to shape and protect these basic values.

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