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Ancillary: Role playing


Role Playing

Background:  Students will engage in a roleplaying scenario based a fictional set of circumstances.  Federal courts have not cited Morse in any student media cases yet, so the circumstances of this case are intended to provide a plausible example.

Instructions (read aloud or provide to students):  Students will play one of the following roles in this example court case:

  • The editors
  • Media adviser (1)
  • Judges (2-3)
  • School administrators

For the sake of simplicity, the editors and school administrators will represent themselves in court.  It’s imperative to remember that every role must be played to the best of students’ abilities.  Playing an administrator, especially, will require the ability to play devil’s advocate and see the arguments on both sides.  Playing an editor will also require the ability to play devil’s advocate; you will have to anticipate the other side’s arguments and attempt to counteract them using legal precedent and logical arguments.  The judges and adviser have a responsibility to decide the case impartially, and the adviser must somehow balance his/her responsibilities to the school, to the program’s staff, and to the law.

Scenario:  One of your staff members, with the blessing of the editors, writes an editorial about the economic and medicinal benefits of marijuana use.  The adviser thinks the editorial is well written and logical, and the staff decides to go to print.  The administration finds out in advance and censors the edition.  The students sue.  (Tailor the publication medium to your school)


Activity 1 (10 minutes):  Introduce the roleplaying scenario using the Roleplaying document.  Read the page and follow the directions.

Activity 2 (35 minutes):  Each group must come up with arguments.  During this time, the judges should review the four relevant Supreme Court cases using the Supreme Court Case Facts document in the Ancillary Materials folder.  The adviser must determine a proper course of action for him/herself since the students make content decisions, not the adviser.  Have students consult the SPLC’s tip sheet for student media advisers (

Activity 3 (20 minutes):  The editors present their case to the judges.  The administrators then defend their case, and the adviser must determine whether or not to support the students.

Activity 4 (15 minutes): Judges should deliberate in private and decide the case.  They must provide justification for their answer by citing Tinker, Hazelwood, Fraser, or Morse.  Whichever case they cite, Morse must be interpreted either narrowly or broadly.  The judges need to explain why they interpreted Morse the way they did.

Closing (10 minutes):  Discuss as a group:

  • How could the staff have protected against this issue in the first place?
  • Does our statement properly cover this?

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