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Bill of Rights,

First United States Congress

The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments to the U.S. constitution, and is a cornerstone of American democracy. George Mason refused to sign the U.S. constitution because it did not have a section containing rights of the individual.…

Virginia Voter Registration and Turnout,

Jessica Cromer, Floyd County Schools

The right to vote is one of the fundamental rights of citizens in a democratic society. Identify voter requirements for residents of Virginia, discuss procedures to register to vote and changes or trends in voter participation, and analyze…

The Supreme Court of Virginia: A Moot Court,

Cliff Gold

Individual liberties and public interest are at stake in two Virginia court cases engaged in this moot court: Rudolph v. Commonwealth (2009) and Cost v. Commonwealth (2008). Students will think about and analyze the decisions of the Virginia Court of…

Dillon’s Rule: Should it Stay or Should it Go?,

Shawn English, Fairfax County Public Schools

As one of the central principles that guide policy making decisions of local jurisdictions, Dillon’s Rule (state control of local government) is an important concept in understanding government in the Commonwealth. Students will read an essay about…

Role of the Office of the Attorney General,

This straightforward one-page document discusses the role of the Attorney General, what she or he does, and what she or he is legally not allowed to do.

What branch of government does the Attorney General fall under? Who are the clients…

Thomas Jefferson Center on Free Expression,

Thomas Jefferson Center

The Thomas Jefferson Center, in Charlottesville, Va., is an organization that promotes freedom of speech through legal cases, education, and the arts. The website offers podcasts, such as Thomas Madison Lives. Another key feature is legal briefs from Thomas Jefferson Center cases, including Commonwealth of Virginia v. Black. This 26-page court document may seem intimidating, but the language is accessible to the general reader. The case addresses whether burning a cross on someone’s lawn can be punishable as a form of intimidation, or if cross burning is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment.

Searchable Virginia Constitution,

Virginia General Assembly

This website, maintained by the Virginia General Assembly, offers a quick reference to each article and section of the Virginia Constitution by keywords. For example, Article I Section 1 relates to “Equality and the Rights of Men.” This feature simplifies finding a relevant section of the Virginia Constitution, and complements the U.S. Constitution Guide. The website also contains a downloadable pdf of the current Virginia Constitution.

Constitutional Issues: Separation of Powers,

National Archives and Records Administration

The National Archives website features a lesson plan about the separation of powers on a federal and state level that revolves around a history of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s court packing during the 1930s. It includes background information on the time period, as well as a primary source document in which a newspaper publisher warns that FDR’s actions may lead to “absolutism and complete dictatorial power.” The website also features a document analysis worksheet and teaching activities.