Thursday, August 19, 2010

Court offers new learning tool on Fourth Amendment

Civics teachers and students may be interested in a new learning tool announced by the Supreme Court of Ohio this week.

The Visitor Education Center is offering a lesson plan based on a recent court decision that requires police to obtain a warrant to search cell phones. The plan provides teachers and students with the tools to study, consider and discuss a contemporary case focusing on the Fourth Amendment.

The activity is designed for middle and high school students who likely will appreciate the details of the case involving cell phones and privacy. Teachers may find the lesson both useful and timely for the Constitution Day, Sept. 17. It is posted on the Supreme Court’s web site here:

The Court in December 2009 ruled the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures requires police to obtain a warrant before conducting a search of a suspect’s cell phone. I wrote the Court’s 4-3 majority opinion. The decision generated considerable national comment as this was the first such ruling from a state supreme court.

The lesson plan features a link to the video stream of the oral arguments before the Court. It also includes:
• Wording of the Fourth Amendment and related terms
• Basics of search warrants
• Background information about the case
• A summary of the legal issues and the Court’s decision
• Suggestions for classroom discussion and follow-up activities.

The exercise aligns with seven content standards in the high school American Government syllabus recently adopted by the State Board of Education.

The Civic Education office has presented the activity to teachers and students for comment and suggestions since March. It will be part of an on-going series called “Extra Credit” posted on the Court’s web site.