Posts Tagged ‘SIRS Government Reporter’

Recent Supreme Court Decisions Offer Primary Sources on Leading Issues

Educators, do you and your students need primary source materials on current controversial social issues? Look no further than SIRS Knowledge Source’s U.S. Supreme Court feature. SIRS editors hand-select Supreme Court decisions based on their relevance to student research and support of SIRS Leading Issues. Users can access Supreme Court cases via the Supreme Court feature in the Government Reporter product, or in the Advanced Search feature in SIRS Knowledge Source by choosing the Primary Sources tab in article results (All available primary sources will appear in the search results).

SIRS Knowledge Source Advanced Search Screenshot via SIRS Issues Researcher

The Court’s most recent term, which concluded the last week of June, saw quite a few compromise decisions since the Court operated without a ninth justice for most of the term. After the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, the Court was left with only eight justices for 14 months while the White House and Congress battled over its membership. But in April, President Donald Trump’s first nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed and joined the Court to create a conservative majority.

Current Supreme Court Justices. Front row, left to right: Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Back row: Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch. (Credit: Franz Jantzen, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States) [public domain]

While there were not a lot of high-profile cases, the Court nevertheless handed down some important decisions involving freedom of religion, gay rights, capital punishment, treatment of prisoners, property rights, free speech, child protection laws and election law. Below we highlight some of the decisions from this term, and their relevance to SIRS Leading Issues topics.

* Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools (Feb. 22, 2017): The Court ruled in a case involving the use of a service dog by a child with cerebral palsy that a student or their family can sue a school district over a disability issue without exhausting all administrative procedures under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

(Related Leading Issue: Education Policy)

* Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1 (March 22, 2017): The Court decided that schools can’t settle for minimal academic progress by students with disabilities.

(Related Leading Issues: Autism, Education Policy)

* Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc. (March 22, 2017): The Court determined that designs on cheerleading uniforms can be protected by copyright law.

(Related Leading Issues: Cheerleading, Copyright Infringement, Sports)

* Moore v. Texas (March 28, 2017): The Court ruled that the outdated medical standards used by the state of Texas to determine that a convicted murderer was not intellectually disabled and thus eligible for execution violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, as well as Supreme Court precedent.

(Related Leading Issues: Capital Punishment, Treatment of Prisoners, Mental Health)

* Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman (March 29, 2017) The Court decided that the New York General Business Law was not unconstitutionally vague under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

(Related Leading Issues: Freedom of Speech)

* Cooper v. Harris (May 22, 2017): The Court determined that North Carolina’s new congressional districting plan constituted an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

(Related Leading Issues: Racial Discrimination, Elections, Government Ethics)

* Sessions v. Morales-Santana (June 12, 2017): The Court determined that disparate citizenship rules for children of unwed mothers and fathers violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.

(Related Leading Issues: Illegal Immigration, Immigration)

* Matal v. Tam (June 19, 2017): The Court ruled that the government can’t reject trademarks that might be disparaging or offensive to some people.

(Related Leading Issues: Controversial Mascots, Ethnic Relations, Freedom of Speech)

* McWilliams v. Dunn (June 19, 2017): The Court decided that an indigent defendant whose competence is a significant issue at trial is entitled to a psychiatric expert, who is independent of the prosecution.

(Related Leading Issues: Criminal Justice, Death Penalty/Capital Punishment, Mental Health)

* Packingham v. North Carolina (June 19, 2017) The Court ruled that the North Carolina law prohibiting registered sex offenders from accessing various websites, where minors are known to be active and have accounts, regardless of whether or not the sex offender directly interacted with a minor, violates the First Amendment.

(Related Leading Issues: Freedom of Speech, Social media, Child protection laws, Convicted felons)

* Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer (June 26, 2017) The Court decided that the exclusion of churches from an otherwise neutral and secular aid program violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise of religion.

(Related Leading Issues: Freedom of Religion, Church and State) 

* Pavan v. Smith (June 26, 2017) The Court ruled that an Arkansas statute that precludes both names of a same-sex married couple from being listed as parents on a child’s birth certificate is an unconstitutional discrimination, considering the Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which legalized same-sex marriage.

(Related Leading Issues: Gay Liberation Movement, Same-sex marriage, LGBT rights, Human Reproductive Technology) 

U.S. Supreme Court Conference Room via U.S. Supreme Court [public domain]

Each case in SIRS Knowledge Source’s U.S. Supreme Court feature includes a full-text PDF version of the opinion, as well as a concise and easy-to-understand summary explaining the question before the Court and its decision. Cases can be browsed by subject heading, topic, by Constitutional Article and Amendment, or alphabetically. You can also find biographical information on current and past justices, a reference article that explains the role of the Supreme Court and its history, a full-text version of the U.S. Constitution with amendments and historical notes, a list of supplementary references for students and educators, and more.

The Supreme Court’s upcoming term for 2017-2018 began on October 2, and the justices have already agreed to hear 33 cases. These cases involve immigration (President Trump’s controversial travel ban); more gay rights issues (a showdown between religious freedom and state anti-discrimination laws); government surveillance (the use of cell phone location records by police without a warrant); election law (a state’s attempt to clean up its voter rolls, and another election redistricting case); and gambling (sports betting at casinos and racetracks); among others.

Stay tuned for decisions in these important cases, and keep SIRS Knowledge Source in mind when you need easy access to primary source material for lesson plans or student research.

Don’t have SIRS Knowledge Source at your school or library? Free trials are available.

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SIRS Knowledge Source: New Interface & Google Integration!

Just in time for back to school, SIRS Knowledge Source is updated with a brand new interface and Google integration for SIRS Issues Researcher, SIRS Government Reporter, and SIRS Renaissance.

SIRS Issues Researcher

Explore the benefits:

  • A cleaner, more streamlined, and modern appearance
  • Design optimized for viewing on mobile devices as well as desktops (i.e. responsive design)
  • Focus on the most valued content and features
  • Integration with Google Drive and Google Classroom
  • Design aligned to other popular ProQuest products like CultureGrams and SIRS Discoverer
  • Continued access to all the great SIRS content



See the 13 New Leading Issues out of 345+ added by our editorial team covering complex social topics:

  • Biological and Chemical Terrorism
  • Concealed Weapons
  • Concussions in Sports
  • Conflict Minerals
  • Education Reform
  • Executive Pay
  • Government Ethics
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • Islamic State Group (ISIS)
  • Refugees
  • Religion and Science
  • Religious Minorities
  • Zika

As evidenced by these tweets, educators are excited about the new integration between SIRS and Google Drive and Classroom!


For more details about the interface update, visit the SIRS Issues Researcher support page.

Share the good news with your colleagues! Tweet about the new SIRS Knowledge Source @ProQuest.

3 Trending Leading Issues: Supreme Court Edition

U.S. Supreme Court Building, Washington, DC <br />  By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org

U.S. Supreme Court Building, Washington, DC
By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Debates on several Leading Issues are about to heat up. Over the next few weeks, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is expected to rule on several landmark cases addressing some of the most controversial issues of our day. Public awareness of SCOTUS may be limited, but these rulings will affect the rights of all Americans. These rulings are also likely to affect SCOTUS’s favorability, which has declined in recent years.

Here are three of the most talked about Leading Issues that SCOTUS will address in the coming weeks:

1. Health Care Reform

SIRS Leading Issue: Health Care Reform by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

SIRS Leading Issue: Health Care Reform
by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

King v. Burwell. This case addresses subsidies offered by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The plaintiffs argue that the ACA only allows subsidies for health insurance purchased through state-run exchanges. The defendants argue that the ACA was intended to offer subsidies for health insurance purchased through federal- and state-run exchanges. According to the New York Times, if SCOTUS rules in favor of the plaintiffs, “about 7.5 million people could lose their subsidies in 34 states that use the federal health care marketplace.”

2. Same-Sex Marriage

SIRS Leading Issue: Same-Sex Marriage <br> by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

SIRS Leading Issue: Same-Sex Marriage
by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

Obergefell v. Hodges. This case addresses same-sex marriage. SCOTUS has raised two questions: Does the U.S. Constitution grant same-sex couples the right to marry? Should states without legalized same-sex marriage be required to recognize same-sex marriages obtained lawfully in other states? A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could potentially legalize same-sex marriage in all fifty states.

3. Capital Punishment

SIRS Leading Issue: Capital Punishment <br> by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

SIRS Leading Issue: Capital Punishment
by ProQuest LLC via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

Glossip v. Gross. This death penalty case addresses whether a controversial lethal-drug combination used to carry out executions violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. The plaintiffs argue that the sedative midazolam, the first drug administered in the three-drug series, fails to prevent prisoners from enduring the intense pain caused by the two other drugs. This severe pain, they argue, is cruel and unusual punishment. If SCOTUS rules in favor of the plaintiffs, states that use midazolam will have to find more reliable drugs or turn to other execution methods like firing squads.

ProQuest’s SIRS Issues Researcher and SIRS Government Reporter editors will follow all of the Supreme Court rulings in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

What do you think about these Supreme Court cases? Comment below or Tweet us at #ProQuest.

TDIH: The Civil War Ends (April 9, 1865)

150 years ago, with the country in its fourth year of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln had been re-elected to a second term. On March 4, 1865, he gave his second inaugural address, and spoke about the war:

“Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came….Fondly do we hope–fervently do we pray–that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.”Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

Lee Surrenders to Grant

Gen. Lee Surrenders to Gen. Grant at Appomattox
by Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons [Public Domain]

Just over a month later, on April 9, 1865, the American Civil War effectively ended when Confederate Army Commander General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at a private home in Appomattox Court House, Virginia. The terrible war that saw the Nation suffer over a million casualties and the deaths of than 620,000 American soldiers–from combat, accident, starvation, and disease–was finally coming to an end. The next day General Lee wrote in a farewell address to his men, known as General Order No 9:

“After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.”

Using primary sources to engage students in learning and building critical thinking and constructing knowledge is emphasized in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). For example, the CCSS require secondary students toAnalyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.

Educators, you can help your students explore the Civil War and other topics in U.S. history through primary source documents with SIRS Government Reporter’s Historic Documents feature. Over 325 documents are available–including speeches, legislation, treaties, and others of historical value. Search for documents by title or subject, or browse through an alphabetical list. Each contains the full text of the document, as well as a brief summary explaining its background and significance. Some historic documents that are available on SIRS Government Reporter and related to the Civil War include:

  • Lincoln’s “House Divided” Speech (1858)
  • Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address (1861)
  • Constitution of the Confederate States of America (1861)
  • Emancipation Proclamation (1863)
  • The Gettysburg Address (1863)
  • Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address (1865)
  • Andrew Johnson’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon for the Confederate States (1865)

Start using the primary source historic documents available on SIRS Government Reporter in your Common Core-based lesson plans and classroom activities today!

The First Thanksgiving Proclamation

The First Thanksgiving

“The First Thanksgiving” by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

Thanksgiving is a particularly American holiday. Tradition traces it back to sometime during the fall of 1621. Only half of the original 102 passengers who had sailed on the Mayflower and landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts the previous December had lived through that first winter. The surviving Pilgrims joined their Wampanoag Indian neighbors for a three-day feast to celebrate the autumn harvest. Contrary to common belief, the celebration was not repeated.

It was nearly 55 years later when the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts held a meeting to determine how best to express thanks for the good fortune that had seen their community securely established. They issued what is known as the First Thanksgiving Proclamation, declaring a day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on June 29, 1676. Later, President George Washington proclaimed Thursday the 26th of November 1789 a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer.” In 1863, during the Civil War, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving. For the first time, Thanksgiving became a national, annual holiday with a specific date. It was celebrated on that day until 1939, when President Franklin Roosevelt caused a national uproar by moving the date up one week to allow an extra week of Christmas shopping as the Nation’s economy was still recovering from the Great Depression. For two years, Thanksgiving was celebrated on two different days throughout the country. On October 6, 1941, Congress ended the confusion by enacting a joint resolution declaring the last Thursday in November to be the legal federal holiday of Thanksgiving Day.

Goverment Reporter Historic Documents

Historic Documents Page in SIRS Government Reporter

The First Thanksgiving Proclamation is one of over 325 full text historic documents available on SIRS Government Reporter. Educators that need primary sources to support teaching with the Common Core State Standards or other curriculum needs can choose from speeches, treaties, legislation and other selected works of exceptional historic value that cover dates from 1215 (Magna Carta) up to the present (President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address). All documents are searchable by title, subject heading, or alphabetically, and each includes a summary explaining the background and significance of the document.

Turn to SIRS Government Reporter‘s Historic Documents feature for your primary source curriculum requirements, or learn more about the history and evolution of the Thanksgiving holiday at these websites from SIRS WebSelect:

Investigating the First Thanksgiving

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving in North America: From Local Harvests to National Holiday

The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings

The Library of Congress Is Born

Thomas Jefferson Building via Foter/Public Domain

“Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.” Photo credit: Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division /Foter / Public domain

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress (LOC) is the oldest federal institution of cultural and historic resources. It also remains the world’s most extensive library, housing a collection that spans over 158 million items including books, recordings, manuscripts, music, photographs, maps and more. It is considered a cultural haven because of the many languages it represents, its unique book offerings and its large law library.

Located in Washington D.C., it has a fascinating past. The LOC started as a reference library for Congress only with a budget of $5,000 and was housed in the Capitol Building. The library was destroyed in August 1814 when invading British troops set fire to the Capitol Building.

Thomas Jefferson offered his personal collection of books to replace the original Library of Congress, and in 1815, Congress agreed to his offer. Jefferson’s collection of 6,487 books gave way to a new national library. Even with such a modest beginning, the library became a trusted source of information worldwide. Today, the Library of Congress is a valuable asset for a countless number of students, patrons, educators and the community, continuing to grow every day.

ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter offers content published by the Library of Congress and SIRS WebSelect hosts special Library of Congress exhibition websites like Exploring the Early Americas, historical online collections like American Memory and web publications like Jefferson’s Legacy. Historically speaking, the Library of Congress has always been a powerful tool for research and has evolved with technology through its website. It connects people to more than just books which is why the Library of Congress is more than just a library.

Do you have a favorite feature or offering of the Library of Congress? We’d love to know!

U.S. Supreme Court Wraps Up a Momentous Term

The United States Supreme Court has recessed for the summer, but this year’s term saw more than its share of landmark opinions by the nine justices of the Nations’ highest court. Some of the noteworthy decisions that will have far-reaching impacts on American society include:

U.S. Supreme Court Building

U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.

Hollingsworth v. Perry: The proponents of California’s Proposition 8 ballot measure which bans same-sex marriage in that state did not have standing to appeal the district court’s order invalidating the ban.

United States v. Windsor: The Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The federal government is required to recognize same-sex marriages.

Shelby County v. Holder: Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is unconstitutional. Its formula can no longer be used as a basis for designating which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court.

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin: Affirmative action and race-based university admissions policies must be strictly reviewed, but they are not illegal.

Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics: The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are not patentable because they are “products of nature.” Naturally occurring DNA sequences cannot be held as the exclusive intellectual property of companies or individuals.

Which of the recent Supreme Court decisions do you think is most important, and why? We welcome your comments in the space below.

Educators can turn to SIRS Government Reporter’s U.S. Supreme Court feature for primary source materials on these, as well as many other selected cases. Each case in SIRS Government Reporter includes a full-text version of the opinion, with an easy-to-understand summary explaining the question before the court and its decision. Cases can be browsed by topic, by Constitutional Article and Amendment, or alphabetically. Also find biographical information on current and past Justices, a reference article that explains the role of the Supreme Court and its history, a full-text version of the U.S. Constitution with amendments and historical notes, a list of supplementary references for students and educators, and more.

SIRS Government Reporter: U.S. Supreme Court

Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court.” This rather archaic language is the traditional chant used by the Marshal to announce the entrance of the nine Justices of the Supreme Court into the courtroom.Group Photo of Supreme Court 2010

SIRS Government Reporter’s database feature on the U.S. Supreme Court provides educators primary source documents and other resources to promote students’ critical thinking skills by exploring how historic and recent Supreme Court decisions impact their lives and shape American society and history.

The feature offers fulltext versions of selected Supreme Court cases, including an easy-to-understand summary that provides a brief synopsis of the case and an explanation of the Court’s decision. Users can browse the Court’s decisions alphabetically by case listing, by Constitutional Articles and Amendments, or by topic. Find a glossary of terms, biographical information on current and past Justices, a reference document explaining the workings of the Court, view the text of the U.S. Constitution, and more. The Landmark Cases section provides information on the decisions that have significantly altered Constitutional doctrines. A list of supplementary references for students and educators is also provided.

Turn to SIRS Government Reporter’s U.S. Supreme Court feature for a wealth of information on the Nation’s highest court.