Pages Navigation Menu

From Ai to book banning and news deserts, Constitution Day empowers journalistic thinking


JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee wants to help you and your students celebrate their free speech rights this year. Constitution Day, observed Sept. 17 yearly in commemoration of the signing of the United States Constitution, is an excellent time to explore and discuss the status of the Constitution in today’s USA. 

Bringing help to news deserts  (by Candace Bowen, MJE) Think about it: If voters don’t know what’s going on in government, how can they make informed decisions in the voting booth? How can they choose the right leaders if all they hear is hype from one side or even conflicting information from several sides? As far as schools go, how can they decide who should be on the school board, the group that makes important decisions about curriculum, administrators and policies that impact everyone?

Localizing Book Banning, 2023 Constitution Day Activity (by Kristin Taylor, MJE) Focus: One of the key skills of a good reporter is the ability to localize national news. This activity can be used on Constitution Day as part of a larger discussion of students’ access to information or another time as practice localizing news. The topic: Rising instances of book bans across the United States.

Litigating social media platforms: editorial judgment and the First Amendment (by Mark Dzula) Currently, there are major legal battles over who has the right to regulate content on social media. Should companies make decisions about what to publish or have the ability to limit what goes out on their platforms? Or should government have the ability to determine which companies are protected by the First Amendment and to what extent? 

A key distinction in these cases is the difference between a newspaper/publication (which is beholden to a certain set of laws) and a social media platform. In which ways are these entities similar? In which key ways are they different? Based on these differences, how should laws and the First Amendment apply?

Ai, Fair Use and the First Amendment ( by Mark Dzula ) Writers are on strike in Hats against AI companies, and consider what’s at stake in each situation.Students will research and weigh the role of precedent to predict how the courts may rule in these cases, including work with primary source documents.

Constitution Day puzzles: Puzzle 1 Puzzle 1 key | Puzzle 2 | Puzzle 2 key (Kirsten Gilliland) Looking for a break between lessons and activities? Try these Constitution Day crosswords puzzles (with keys) on legal terminology, court decisions and more.

• In addition to this new material, check out our numerous lessons and activities from previous years: 2022, 2021, 20202019201820172016201520142013.

• This is also a great time to review student press rights particular to your community. How aware are your students of their own editorial policy? School board policy? Guidelines for ethical performance and meaningful, all-encompassing staff manual? How about the existence (or lack thereof) of a New Voices law? Are there ways your students could strengthen or improve their specific protections? You can always check out additional resources on this website or the Student Press Law Cente

Constitution Day Coordinator: Mark Dzula, the Webb Schools (CA)

Additional Contributors:
Candace Bowen, MJE, Kent State University (OH), retired
John Bowen, MJE, Kent State University (OH), retired
Kirsten Gilliland, Bryan High School in Omaha, NE
Kristin Taylor, MJE, The Archer School for Girls (CA)