Rights and Responsibilities of Students (The)
  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.

Students will apply the concept of jurisdiction to classroom rules, identify court-recognized student rights and create a list of behaviors in a classroom that might violate student rights.

PrintOne to Two Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • give at least one example of a rule, and the jurisdiction with the authority to make or change the rule.
  • identify the single most basic student right that has been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • create a list of the three to five most important student rights in a classroom.
  • identify and list specific student behaviors that interfere with student rights.
  • Sample Classroom Rules as example (see Handout One)
  • Summary of Tinker v DesMoines and Bethal v Fraser Supreme Court Decisions (see Handout Two)
  • Newsprint
  • Markers


  1. Introduce the lesson with the first two segments of the video American Promise (about five minutes) to illustrate the conflict between groups concerning what constitutes a "fair" rule. If American Promise is not available, begin lesson by generating a discussion on a particular school rule that has been controversial. Ask some of the following questions:

    • Why was the rule created?
    • Who created it?
    • What gave them the authority to create it?
    • Why do some people believe it is unfair?
    • Why does the administration think it is necessary?



  2. Distribute Classroom Rules (see Handout One) after it has been adapted to reflect your classroom's appropriate teacher and school rules).

  3. Discuss the different levels of jurisdiction that affect rules in a school:

    • National (Congress and the Courts): no student can be discriminated against
    • State (State Legislature and State Courts): all students must take government
    • Local (city or township): no speeding in front of the school
    • Local (school board): no hats in school
    • Teacher: everyone in seat when the bell rings
  4. Call on individual students to give additional examples of rules and identify which level of government has jurisdiction.

  5. Explain that as the teacher, you have chosen to share your rule-making jurisdiction with the students. However, before creating rules they will need to look at what the Supreme Court has said about the rights and responsibilities of students.

  6. Distribute Handout One which summarizes two of the major Supreme Court decisions dealing with the rights of students: Tinker v Des Moines and Bethal v Fraser.

  7. Lead a brief class discussion to make sure students understand the cases and answer questions about the meaning of "conducive to learning." Call on individual students and ask them to explain: (1) why they think the Court has ruled that the right to learn is the most basic right, and,(2) if they agree with the Court's decision.

  8. Set up groups of six to seven students. Since you are likely to create the rules very early in the semester, a brief "get acquainted exercise" will help the group to know each other and facilitate better group work. For example, give each group three minutes to allow each person to introduce him/herself and tell the group his/her favorite movie.

  9. Distribute markers and newsprint and give students three to five minutes to make a list of student rights. Use just the top half of the paper. Have each group put newsprint on the board. Each student in the group should be able to defend the inclusion of each right on the list. Instructional Procedure(s) [Continued]:

  10. Using the lists, lead the class in a discussion to combine the lists into the three to five rights the class feels are the most important. Write those on the board.

  11. Back in groups, students should be given five to ten minutes to make a list of student behaviors that interfere with learning and/or infringe on other rights identified by the students. Each student in the group should be able to explain why the group included it on the list.

  12. Post new lists on the board and again lead a discussion that allows the class to choose the three to five behaviors that are the biggest problems in a classroom. Note: Keep all the groups' lists from each class. Post all the lists around the room the next day so the students are aware of all the rights and behaviors that have been discussed across all class periods.

  13. Have students bring in copies of class rules from other classes for the next day.


To assess understanding of the concept of jurisdiction, call on individual students to give examples of rules and to identify the level of government that had the jurisdiction to create that rule. A random system (such as index cards with student names) should be used so that all students are accountable for knowing the information.. During group discussion, one student in each group will be required to give an oral explanation to the class concerning the group's reasoning in selecting behaviors that interfere with student rights. If the student is unable to give a clear explanation, he/she will need to confer with the group (briefly) and then give the explanation. Student understanding could also be assessed with a written test or matching exercise. List the class-identified rules on the board or on a sheet of paper as a student handout.. Students would then write on their paper the level of government that had the jurisdiction to create the rule. Individually, each student should select one behavior that interferes with learning and/or infringes on other rights identified by the students, and write an explanation as to why the group included it on the list.