Fair Responses to Unfair Acts

6, 7, 8

In the story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, students identify the barriers and challenges to addressing an unfair situation. Given a list of ways to respond to unfair situations, students match ways to respond to possible unfair situations.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne 20-minute lesson

The learner will:

  • identify the difficult decisions involved in taking action against unfairness.
  • read and discuss different ways to respond to unfairness.
  • apply ways to respond to a list of potential unfair situations.

A copy of Handout One: Ways to Respond to Unfairness for each student


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Review the definition of fairness the class came up with in Lesson One. Ask the students if they still think it is a good definition. Adjust the definition, if desired.

  2. Tell the story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott: Before 1955, there had been an unfair rule that African Americans had to sit in the back of the bus and give uptheir seat in the front if a white passenger needed a seat. Many black passengers followed that unfair rule for a long time before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Her action was the first step in the bus boycott. Because of her action, the African American community in Montgomery, Alabama, all agreed not to ride the bus until the rule changed. Their action was difficult for them because they had to find other ways to get around town, but it also cost the bus company money in lost sales. Finally, the Supreme Court declared that the segregation [separation of a group for different treatment] laws of the Montgomery public transportation system were unconstitutional [not adhering to the rights guaranteed in the Constitution]. One year after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, the law changed. This was a significant victory for the Civil Rights Movement [actions taken between 1955 and 1968 to outlaw racial discrimination].

  3. Ask, "What was the catalyst for the African American community and others to take action at this time? What action did they take? Do you think it was difficult for Rosa Parks to take action against what she knew was unfair? Why or why not? Do you think it was difficult for the African American community to stick with the boycott [refusal to have dealings until acceptable practices are enforced] for a year? Why or why not? Why do you think they didn't give in?"

  4. Give each student a copy of Handout One: Ways to Respond to Unfairness. Individually, have them match possible ways of responding to the list of unfair situations (answers may vary). Facilitate a whole class discussion of the responses.

  5. Ask the students to think about how comfortable they feel responding in the ways listed at the top of the handout. As you read each response, have them raise their hands if they think they would feel comfortable responding in that way. Discuss.

Cross Curriculum 

This character education mini-lesson is not intended to be a service learning lesson or to meet the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice. The character education units will be most effective when taught in conjunction with a student-designed service project that provides a real world setting in which students can develop and practice good character and leadership skills. For ideas and suggestions for organizing service events go to generationon.org.