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POL 150 First-Year Seminar: Law, Liberties, and the Supreme Court (3 credits)

Students have liberties – freedom of speech, religion, press, privacy – but courts often restrict student freedom when schools claim they need power to maintain an environment for learning. This course analyzes the evolving opinions and doctrines of the United States Supreme Court concerning the civil liberties of students. We will look at the right of students to wear clothing to protest, wear their hair long, hang signs that say BONG HiTS 4 JESUS, stay at school pregnant, and receive corporal (physical) punishment, among other topics. We will also look at classic cases of race (racial segregation of elementary children), gender (Title IX), and discrimination against gays and lesbians (banning gays and lesbians from leading Boy Scout troops). We will carefully read Supreme Court opinions and learn to brief (write summaries of the logic of) cases in order to explore how the Court reasons and argues for a particular interpretation of the Constitution. We will also assess the Court’s reasoning and stage a formal moot court to practice research, writing, and argument skills as well as to deepen our understanding of the law. Not for major credit.