Elementary School Civics Lesson on First Amendment Upsets Parents

(Photo: Screengrab/WTLV-WJXX)Students in Jacksonville, Fla., were allegedly told to write that they'd be willing to give up some of their constitutional rights in order to be safer or more secure, as part of an elementary school civics lesson. April 13, 2013.

Parents in Jacksonville, Fla., are fighting back against the school district after finding their son's class project in which he was allegedly told to write that he would give up his constitutional rights.

Aaron Harvey and his wife said their son and other students were instructed to write, in crayon, that they'd be willing give up some of their constitutional rights in order to be safer or more secure. "According to the children, the teacher spoke the sentence, and they had to write down what she said," Harvey told WLTV-WJXX.

Harvey, whose 10-year-old son attends Cedar Hills Elementary School in Duval County, added that he doesn't believe that any American, adult or child, should be forced to write or speak words expressing that they'd be willing to give up their constitutionally protected rights.

The civics lesson, known as the Justice Teaching activity, is designed to teach students in the fourth and fifth grades about the First Amendment. The instructor is to show students a copy of the U.S. Constitution, and then ask students to share what they know about the First Amendment before they're allowed to read a copy of it for themselves.

In a written statement addressing the Harveys' concerns about their son's civics lesson, Duval Count Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the class exercise is "consistent with our efforts to broaden civics-based education and develop critical thinking skills among our students. The lesson builds awareness of First Amendment rights through a partnership with an association of local attorneys. Our possible concern rests with a follow-up activity that may have been conducted after the lesson."

Harvey told the local news station that he doesn't know if the classroom teacher or a visiting lawyer instructed the students to write that they'd be willing give up their First Amendment rights, but either way he's not happy, and said their personal opinions have no place in the classroom.

The Harveys said they want their son to learn about American history and the U.S. Constitution; they just disagree with the lesson that required students to write that they'd be willing to give up their rights.

According to the course material, the class activities are designed to "create awareness of the five rights contained in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution" and will also teach students that only 2 percent of Americans could name all five rights contained in the First Amendment, according to polling data results.

The assignment is also supposed to help instructors facilitate activities that enable students to "dissect" the First Amendment and "determine their opinions on which rights they value most."

Harvey told the local station that he had a conference call Friday with the principal of Cedar Hills Elementary School, his son's teacher and a counselor, and that an in-person meeting has been scheduled for Friday.

WTLV-WJXX Jacksonville, Fla.