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Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier

The 30th anniversary of Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier this year is an opportunity to reflect on the state of journalism in schools. Apply the 1988 Supreme Court precedent to this contemporary scenario in which the student vampire club posts controversial content on the school’s FaceLook page.

About These Resources

Use the resources with either an Oxford style debate or a scripted jury trial.

  • Analyze the facts and case summary for Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier.
  • The fictional scenario is based on the landmark Supreme Court case Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier. 
  • Detailed procedures (pdf) provide additional information about the program and how to facilitate it in a courtroom or classroom.
  • A sample agenda (pdf) for use in the courtroom.
  • Use the talking points to guide thoughtful and lively discussion during the program.
  • The script (pdf) is used in a jury trial format.

How to Use These Resources

One Scenario – Two Format Options

The same scenario is used for the two formats offered – an Oxford style debate, and a scripted witness stand exchange. Both formats can be used in a classroom or a courtroom. If the event is staged in a courtroom, a federal judge presides and two attorneys serve as coaches. If the program is presented in a classroom, the teacher facilitates and students play all of the parts.

Option 1: In the Oxford style debate, the (1) scenario, (2) procedures, and (3) agenda stimulate lively courtroom interactions among the students, the host federal judge, and volunteer attorney coaches. Eight students, selected by their teacher(s) in advance, are attorneys on opposing sides of the issues. (4) They use suggested talking points with prepared judge’s questions that they are provided in advance. The judge also asks spontaneous, follow-up questions to elicit their opinions. All other students serve as jurors who deliberate in a virtual jury room in the gallery of the courtroom.

Option 2: A scripted witness stand simulation involves 15 speaking parts. A federal judge and two student judges preside two adult attorneys make the unscripted opening statements. Student lawyers and witnesses do a scripted witness stand exchange. Two student lawyers present the unscripted closing arguments based on notes they take during the testimony. All other students are active jurors who deliberate in small groups. Each jury must reach a unanimous verdict. The winning team is determined by the majority of jury verdicts in its favor.

Debate Materials for Teachers

The program materials are reviewed by the teachers before selecting the student attorneys. The student attorneys are the only students who receive the materials in advance. Student attorneys should be prepared to read the talking points comfortably so that everyone can easily hear and understand them, but they shouldn’t memorize the points. The student jurors read the fictional scenario for the first time when they arrive in the courtroom.

Fictional Scenario in Brief

Students forming a vampire club called The Fangtastics at school post vampire-related content on the student wall of their high school’s official FaceLook fan page. When the principal decides not to recognize The Fangtastics as a legitimate school club because she believes it endorses dangerous cult activity, a students posts a critical satire about the decision on the student wall. The student administrator of the wall does not remove the satire or related student postings. The principal claims that all the students violated school policies by posting content that threatened a safe and efficient learning environment. The students claim that their First Amendment rights were violated and sue the principal and the school district in federal court.

DISCLAIMER: These resources are created by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for educational purposes only. They may not reflect the current state of the law, and are not intended to provide legal advice, guidance on litigation, or commentary on any pending case or legislation.