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Texas v. Johnson

Apply the Texas v. Johnson free speech and flag burning decision to a high school scenario. Does the First Amendment protect – as symbolic speech – taking a knee during the national anthem? 

What’s Different About This Activity?
  • Teaches a Landmark Case and Makes It Relevant
  • Incorporates Current Student Issues, i.e., Taking a Knee at Sporting Events
  • Ready in 30 Minutes
  • Involves Every Learning Style
  • Centerpiece is Jury Deliberations

How to Use These Resources

  1. Start Here. The Activity Download is the place to find the web resources formatted as courtroom- and classroom-ready handouts.
  2. Modify. Choose from the optional civil discourse activities that can be incorporated into the agenda.
  3. Read. Have students read the facts and case summary and the fictional scenario about the kicker on a high school football team who risks her future to exercise her First Amendment rights.
  4. Analyze. Assign student attorneys to the two sides of the case and the issues listed in the talking points
  5. Deliberate. All other students are jurors who deliberate in a courtroom fishbowl activity. The judge, volunteer attorneys, and student attorneys observe as the jurors deliberate in a large group or smaller groups. Due to time constraints, the verdict doesn’t have to be unanimous.
  6. Reflect. Students can respond to the discussion questions verbally or in writing.

Background: Texas v. Johnson

United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990) The Johnson decision only affected a Texas state law. In the wake of the decision, the federal government enacted a law that also prohibited flag burning. In order to try to get around constitutional challenges, the law prohibited all types of flag desecration, with the exception of burning and burying a worn-out flag, regardless of whether the action upset others. The Supreme Court held that this did not cure the constitutional defect and the same 5-4 majority from Johnson held that the law still impermissibly discriminated upon viewpoint and struck it down.