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May 08, 2014

Biology and the Fourth Amendment

Grade Level

High School


When is biology private? In the wake of the Supreme Court's recent DNA ruling, this session explored how the Court has ruled on Fourth Amendment issues related to the body--everything from fingerprinting to strip searches.


There are five case studies included in the lesson packet. They describe five U.S. Supreme Court cases from recent history related to biology. A recommended procedure for this activity is to divide the students into five groups and hand each group a case study. Allow each group to read and think about the case study, then ask all groups to report their findings to the rest of the class. Instructors could keep track of all cases on a dry erase board for the rest of the class as each group reports. Allow students to discuss the cases once they have learned about all five--do they observe trends? Next, distribute the 4th Amendment and DNA handout, which discusses the Court's most recent case related to this issue, Maryland v. King.  Ask students to read the case study, then predict what the Court's ruling might be, based on the previous five case studies. Finally, provide students with the Court's ruling in Maryland v. King. To conclude the activity, discuss with students any future cases related to biology that the Court might, or should, consider in the future. 

Session materials: