Unit 1: There Ought to Be a Law! Defining Crime and Justice

What is crime? People who live by the rule of law also must accept the consequences for breaking the rules. But how do we decide where to draw the line between legal and illegal behavior? In this introductory unit, students consider how and why crime has been defined in different times and places as well as the varied consequences of criminalizing behavior. Through an in depth exploration of a new cyberbullying law, students learn how to break down a criminal statute into its required elements and consider the differences between criminal and civil law, federal and state law, and the adult and juvenile justice systems. Working in teams representing a wide range of perspectives and professions in law, law enforcement, and advocacy, students consider the potential consequences of criminalizing cyberbullying, explore civil and social alternatives, and choose a response to cyberbullying that is constitutional and just.

Unit Length: 19 50-minute sessions

Unit Project Description

Students participate in a legislative hearing and argue for or against the passage of a state law criminalizing cyberbullying. Students consider the human impact of cyberbullying from the perspectives of a victim, the perpetrator, parents, and community members to understand how and why the law has been proposed, then analyze the law’s constitutionality, enforceability, and fairness. After writing a narrative from the perspective of one of the people affected by the cyberbullying incident, students reflect on how criminalization would affect different stakeholders and work in teams to prepare talking points for or against the proposed law for presentation at the public hearing.


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