- Understand the principle of due process, which holds that the government must interact with all citizens according to the tenets of the law; applying these rules equally among all citizens.
- Understand ways the Supreme Court has interpreted the Fourth Amendment.
- Evaluate whether the Fourth Amendment is effectively protecting citizens from unreasonable search and seizure.
- Handout A: Background Essay: How Have the Protections of the Fourth Amendment been Interpreted, Applied, and Enforced?
- Handout B: Attitude Inventory
- Handout C: Interpreting the Fourth Amendment
- Handout D: Should You Expect Privacy?
- Distribute Handout B: Attitude Inventory and do a think-pair-share. If students wish to change their answers after discussing with their partner, they should feel free to do so.
- Reconvene the class and ask for a few volunteers to share their responses. Which items led to the most discussion? Did anyone change their mind? Why?
- Ask students how they responded to the questions that asked about their understanding of concepts (numbers 1-2). What information do students need to increase their understandings? Make a list on the board and refer to it through the activities.
Activity I – 10 minutes
- Project and/or distribute Handout C: Interpreting the Fourth Amendment. Read the text of the Fourth Amendment aloud to the class.
- Ask students to contribute their answers, and type or write their contributions on the projected handout. See the Answer Key for suggested responses.
Activity II – 20 minutes
- Put students in groups of 2-4, and distribute Handout D: Should You Expect Privacy?
- Give students 10 minutes to complete the chart. After deciding on each scenario, they should include a one-sentence justification.
- Bring the class together and ask for student responses to the first scenario.
- When student discussion of each scenario is complete, share the information from the Answer Key.
Wrap-Up – 5 minutes
Conduct a brief discussion on the following questions.
- Is it always clear when someone has a “reasonable expectation of privacy”?
- Based on the kinds of things the Supreme Court has said the Fourth Amendment allows government to do, is that amendment effectively protecting citizens from unreasonable search and seizure?
- Why is it important that Americans have an ongoing conversation about what is private and what government can and cannot do to its citizens?
- Have students pretend they are a member of Congress who wishes to propose a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution that “updates” the Fourth Amendment and addresses new issues of personal privacy. In ONE sentence—just as the Fourth Amendment is one sentence—have them write a new amendment that includes Fourth Amendment-style protections for new technologies and modern life. In 2-3 paragraphs, have students defend and justify what they included in their new, proposed Amendment.
- Do they believe their proposed amendment answers ALL of the potential challenges to both privacy and search/seizure in modern life and going forward? Is it even possible?
- What does this assignment reveal about the durability of the Fourth Amendment?
- Explain to students that customs agents at the national border may search individuals or their property without a warrant. The same is true at an airport when someone wants to board a flight. (Airports have been the subject of controversy with the installation of backscatter radiation full-body scanners and the carrying out of full-body pat-downs). Write a 2-3 paragraph response to the following questions:
- How have fears of terrorism affected the way people view these practices?
- What other criminal procedures, if any, would it be acceptable to relax in light of the war on terror?
- Invite a school official to your class to speak to students and ask the following questions. Students should then write a 2-3 paragraph summary of the official’s answers, closing with a statement of student opinion about the state of the Fourth Amendment in your school:
- What situations have you encountered in which you’ve conducted a search?
- How do you make a decision about conducting a search? What district policies, state laws, or Supreme Court ruling guide your decision to conduct a search?
- Do you believe the application of the Fourth Amendment in schools both upholds student rights and the need to preserve school safety and learning? Why or why not?