Effective, just and humane responses
to the causes and consequences of crime

Teachers: Do Your Students Know Their Rights?

Most of what Alberta students know about rights likely comes from American television. There is almost nothing in popular entertainment that speaks to the Canadian situation.

Canadian media stories may only mention in passing that a youth has been charged with an offence, and the youth’s name has been withheld as per the “Youth Criminal Justice Act”. Beyond that, you may find that unless your students have studied Canadian law as it applies to youth, they may know little if anything about it.

Teachers know the importance of preparing their students for situations they may encounter in the world outside school. Beginning at an early age, students are given the groundwork for law–discussions about what is “fair”, why we have rules, etc.–and in later grades, this foundation is built upon by introducing the cornerstones of Canadian law, such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The John Howard Society of Alberta has educational materials suitable for use by teachers, both to educate themselves and their students, about the law and how it applies to youth. Our module on the Youth Criminal Justice Act includes an introduction to the Act for teachers, and a more detailed handbook. There are exercises and activities suitable for different age groups, from an activity for primary grades on “Rules and Laws”, to  a set of questions and activities for secondary level students focused on sections 7 to 14 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and how they apply to youth.

Students can also learn what it’s like to get in trouble with the law by playing our text adventure game, “Kyle’s Choice“. Players read about Kyle and then make decisions about what he should do next; these decisions change what happens to Kyle. It’s an interesting way to experience how the rights given to youth determine what happens to them when they come in conflict with the law.

Every teacher wants to see his or her students stay out of trouble. The more students know about their actual rights, as opposed to what they think they know from popular culture, the better they’re able to avoid coming in conflict with the law.