Constitution Day lesson plan highlights North Dakota's new student press rights protections
In 1952, Congress directed every public school to set aside time on Sept. 17 – Constitution Day – to teach young people about constitutional values and principles. This year's Constitution Day is extra-special in North Dakota, because it marks the first time young people will have meaningful free-speech rights, thanks to the John Wall New Voices of North Dakota Act.
The nation's newest student press-rights statute is also one of its most comprehensive, protecting student journalists from censorship at the college and K-12 levels -- protection that extends to independent journalistic work as well as work in school-sponsored media -- as well as outlawing retaliation against journalism advisers for what their students write.
To mark this advance toward giving students the actual benefit of the Constitution that they're expected to study and learn, the SPLC has created a Constitution Day lesson plan about the New Voices Act that is designed for use in North Dakota schools but could be adapted for use elsewhere (especially in a state with comparable statutory protection for student journalists -- consult this map if you're not sure about your own state).