Impeachment and SCOTUS Update

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
This week, the eyes of the nation turned to the Senate as the impeachment trial for former President Donald J. Trump began. Student questions about power, process, justice, free speech, and sedition are sure to emerge as the proceedings continue over the next weeks.

Dr. Steven D. Schwinn, Professor of Law at John Marshall Law School at the University of Illinois-Chicago joined Illinois Civics for a webinar this week to help address questions many classrooms have over this second impeachment trial. Dr. Schwinn also provided an update on the current Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) term with cases for classrooms to watch that address free association and freedom of speech. If you missed the webinar, a recording is available in the Webinar Archives.

The Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches share their favorite resources to teach about SCOTUS:

Jason Artman from Mendota shares, “PBS Learning Media has a number of lessons on the Supreme Court, many linked to PBS videos as well. This lesson addresses the importance of precedent at the Supreme Court, a topic I’ve found I really need to explain to students as they struggle with the idea that the Supreme Court does not operate like courts on the Law and Order TV series.” Jason also created a US Supreme Court Analysis Guide for students to use to research a case for an in-depth discussion.

Christopher Johnson from Oneida likes Landmark Cases from Street Law. “This is a great tool to look at key cases from the past. The cases have multiple levels of reading level for differentiation.” For more advanced students, Chris uses Oyez.

Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz from Charleston has several recommendations:
  • I like SCOTUS Blog to follow the current term, and also get a quick sense of the role of amicus briefs, etc. by looking at actual cases in the works.
  • I have also used some of iCivics resources around the Supreme Court. I like Supreme Interpreters in particular.
  • If anyone would want to look at the recent Flowers v. Mississippi case, especially useful given its discussion of race in the criminal justice system, 60 Minutes did a great interview with the now-free Curtis Flowers, and the In the Dark series about his is amazing — detailed information on jury selection in particular. (Street Law also has materials on that case from last year).
Heather Monson from East Moline is a Constitutional Law fan and has a plethora of ideas:
  • Do your students love graphic novels? Why not use a graphic novel from the Supreme Court of Ohio to help your students understand court proceedings and cases. Graphic novels include topics young teens are interested in such as bullying, jury duty, and a friend who breaks a gaming system.
  • US Courts offers lesson plans, interactive games, videos, and is an excellent resource for the basics about the court. It offers interesting resources for educators and informative sites for students.
  • Read, Write, Think has an excellent lesson on Civil Liberties and the Supreme Court. This is a great place to seek ways for students to dig deeper into civil liberties.
  • What about asking a local judge to visit your classroom? They could zoom into your class! Here is some information from the Constitutional Rights Foundation to help your student prepare for a guest speaker. 
  • Annenberg Classroom is an excellent resource for videos, podcasts, and small summaries of various aspects of the Constitution and SCOTUS. This is a link to many of the cases they offer with videos, summaries, and connections. 
  • Women Who Shaped The Court is a great way to examine how the court has been influenced by its female judges.
Logan Ridenour from Dupo likes SCOTUS in the Classroom from Street Law because “it provides teachers with relevant cases that are currently in the court. These are student-friendly and are resourced in a way that makes conducting a moot court approachable for students.”

Corie Yow from Chatham points to the following resources: To help address student questions about the violence at the Capitol and impeachment, visit our toolkit for The First 100 Days. We will be adding more resources as they become available, so keep checking back.

What resources are you using to address impeachment and SCOTUS in your classroom? Please comment below. Together, we can prepare all students for college, career, and civic life.

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