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You Can’t Say That in School? Allowed or Not Allowed

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Students use a series of scenarios to begin considering how far the First Amendment’s protections extend.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle and high school

TIME: 60 minutes

MATERIALS: Allowed or Not Allowed worksheet (download), Allowed or Not Allowed teacher background sheet (included in Allowed or Not Allowed overview)


  1. Print copies the worksheet, one per student.
  2. Review the teacher background sheet.


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Overview PDF DOC
Worksheets PDF DOC
Extensions PDF DOC
Full Packet PDF DOC

To request a large print or Braille version, call 202.292.6650.


Break students into small groups and ask them to read the “Allowed or Not Allowed?” worksheet and circle yes or no for each scenario. They should attempt to agree as a group on one answer per scenario.

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As a class, discuss each scenario and the decision-making process. Possible prompts include:

  • How did you reach a decision for each scenario? Did you think about whether the action described was illegal? (Do you know?) Whether it was annoying to others? Whether it would produce a positive or negative outcome?
  • Was it hard to come to an agreement as a group for each scenario? Why or why not?
  • In the world beyond the classroom, how do you think the authorities — police officers or judges in court — decide whether an action should be allowed or not?
  • What if I told you that all of these actions are indeed protected by the First Amendment? Would that surprise you? Why or why not?
  • In the world beyond our classroom, do you think everyone always agrees about whether actions like these should be allowed? Why happens when people disagree?
  • The First Amendment freedoms are broad, but they are not unlimited. Where would you draw the line between what should be protected and what shouldn’t?
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