You be the Judge!


What does that mean?

Rule: All students have the right to necessary school supplies.

If you had to explain what this rule means, what would you consider as “necessary” school supplies? Examine the images to the right and decide which items would be on your list.

What might be on your list might not be on someone else’s. If there’s a disagreement, then someone else would need to decide who's right.

Which school supplies do you think are necessary? Explain why.

Your Rights

The Constitution is the official rulebook for the U.S. government. (You may recognize the first three words, "We the People!") The Bill of Rights were added to the Constitution to clearly show what the government may NOT do to people. Later amendments have also been added.  Interpreting what these amendments mean is anything but simple! For example, the 1st Amendment says the government may not take away your freedom of speech. Does that mean you can say absolutely ANYTHING? 

Click on the link to the right to see what your rights are.  HINT: Scroll down to where “Amendment I” starts.

Who is the Judge?

If there is a disagreement over what an amendment means, the Supreme Court decides who is right. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the country, and all Americans must live by what it says.

To the right you will see a picture of the current justices on the Supreme Court. Can you name any of them? Visit their biographies to learn more about who they are! Did you find anything interesting?

That’s cruel and unusual!

Let’s take a look at the 8th Amendment. Click on the link to the right and SCROLL DOWN TO Amendment VIII. Read it.

Now, let’s look a few scenarios, and you can decide if the punishment was cruel and unusual. (Yes – these actually happened!)

What do you think?

A person is sentenced to death for murder. On the first try, the electric chair shocks the prisoner but does not kill him. They put the prisoner back in his cell, fix the chair, and plan to try again later.


The Supreme Court said …

Was the malfunctioning electric chair “cruel and unusual” punishment? 


The Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protects against a cruel method of execution. Just because an accident happened the first time does not make the method cruel. Nobody intended to cause the prisoner to suffer unnecessary harm.  

Do you agree or disagree with this decision?

What do you think?

A boy commits murder when he is 17 years old. He is tried as an adult and given the death penalty.


The Supreme Court said …

Was it “cruel and unusual” to give the death penalty to someone under 18? 


The Supreme Court ruled that a person under the age of 18 deserves less punishment than an adult. Teenagers are less experienced, less disciplined, and more vulnerable than adults. They respond more to peer pressure, and they have more potential to grow and change. 

Do you agree or disagree with this decision?

Making it more clear

One of the Supreme Court’s jobs is to help make the rules of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights easier to follow. When the justices make decisions on individual cases, they provide clarification on how that particular part of the Constitution should be interpreted.