Are Constitutional Rights
Protected within the School Building?
Students’ Rights in
Are Constitutional Rights Protected within the School
Students, are one of the
largest groups in America today, and constantly growing. It is a
requirement in the United States that all minors under the age of 16 attend
school. However, in the schools, their rights as citizens are often
violated. Instead of following their basic individual rights, students'
rights as citizens are ignored by the administrators of the schools.
Why does this happen? Schools are where democracy should be taught
not hindered. In order for the next generation to become productive
citizens they must learn how to use their rights effectively.
While some rights in
today’s society are not appropriate in the school building, some rights
that are fundamentals to American society are being denied alongside them.
Rights such as free speech, freedom from unwarranted search and seizure,
and the freedom of religion. Why do schools get away with these clear
violations of the Bill of Rights? Schools justify the violations
with the claim that they’re only students and adolescents, who are not
ready for the responsibility, that they need protection from the dangers
of the world. These students are our future, and should be taught how to
insure the future of America, through their rights.
When is it that “protection”
outweighs an individual’s rights? In America, people are arrested
for crimes everyday. However, criminal’s rights are upheld to a T,
or, the evidence collected against them is unusable in a court of law.
In a school however, all an administrator needs is to follow a “reasonableness
requirement” which requires the administrators to have evidence to support
that a crime has been committed, instead of probably cause, in which their
must be evidence linking the accused to the crime that has been committed.
(T.L.O. v New Jersey) Students don’t have rights as other citizens,
just because they are students, not because they are young.
In public places other than schools their rights as citizens must be upheld.
In the case of Tinker v. Des Moines, students had the right to use any
of their rights in the school environment, so long as they didn’t interfere
with the educational process. What is education? Is education
facts and concepts, or is it comprehension and application of skills?
“In our system, students may not be regarded as closed-circuit recipients
of only that which the State chooses to communicate. They may not
be confined to the expression of those sentiments that are officially approved.”
(Justice Fortas, Tinker v. Des Moines, Court’s Opinion) The Supreme
Court has officially stated that the constitutional rights of students
are to be respected in the school.
However, they completely contradict
their statements in other verdicts such as Hazelwood School District V.
Kuhlmeier, where two comments given were the opposite of each other.
“Educators are entitled to exercise greater control over this form of student
expression to assure that participants learn whatever lessons the activity
is designed to teach.” This stated that teachers could control the material
covered, as in a Newspaper. However, the comment “We hold that educators
do not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial control over
the style and content of student speech in school sponsored expressive
do you differentiate from the two? Students express themselves through
their work, and through expressing themselves they learn more about themselves
and the world around them.
The truth is that it
doesn’t matter what the right is, there are bound to be violations of it.
Students' rights are violated everyday for the sake of ‘protecting’ them,
but protecting against what? Against gun-wielding maniacs?
Those are found in every type of people, student or not. Statistically
it’s more likely to get shot in the Post Office than at a school.
The First Amendment is by far the most commonly violated constitutional
right, specifically the right of free speech. Is it not through free
speech that people convey themselves? “Our Constitution says we must
take this risk.” (Tinker v. Des Moines) Administrators control student
rights because they are afraid what will happen, protests, riots and the
like. However, as stated by the Supreme Court, they must not do so,
because the constitutional rights of students outweigh the possible risks.
Students deserve to be able to use their constitutional rights on school
grounds and off. It’s a question of whether we drop the Constitution
at the door. If we teach it inside isn’t that a just a little difficult?
Students’ Rights in Local Schools
Are students’ rights in the area protected? There is no general answer
to this, because it’s a different situation for each student. While
some students’ rights are trampled upon for the sake of ‘protecting’ them,
others enjoy complete freedom as sanctioned by the United States Constitution.
So, how are student’s rights upheld in the schools surrounding this area?
The answers range from good to fair, however, do the student’s really know
what their right are? Students rarely understand their rights until
exposed to them.
Both students and teachers from North Middlesex Regional High School and
Groton-Dunstable Regional High School in Massachusetts were interviewed
on the subject of student’s right. The schools are of different sizes.
One contains around six hundred students, the other containing more than
two thousand. The differences in the sizes of these schools would
generally call for a difference in answer, however this wasn’t my finding.
Instead of the smaller school giving students more freedom than the larger
school, both schools stated that students had no rights in the school
building, aside from safety and the right to an education. However,
when asked how these rights compare to those found in the Bill of Rights
they the stated that it’s related to democracy. Schools deny students
their rights and claim that it helps them teach democracy! “It’s
an issue of whether you drop the Constitution at the door.” They
stated that they denied the right to bear arms, for reasons of protection,
but students stated that their rights to free speech had been violated
in respect to dress, and areas of academics such as the Newspaper.
“They edited my paper so much that it wasn’t my own anymore. So I
quit [the Newspaper].” Tobs Davern stated. Is this an education?
To take someone’s work, and mangle it until it’s not theirs anymore?
Student should be taught how to work with their talents, not have their
work distorted by someone else.
Schools claim that inorder
to teach their students they must control them and make them conform to
a certain standard of mind. However is this the case? Students
have been proven to learn more affectively in a “hands on” environment,
which is exactly what this controled environment the schools are requiering
destroys. Students should be able to learn about their rights as
citizens first hand, developing their ablility to become productive citizens.
These actions on the part of the schools hamper the educations of America’s
youth. Student’s should have the ablility to discover and develop
their talents, without fear of sensorship from school officals. This
doesn’t happen when student’s actions are controlled.
Students are citizens of America, and therefore they deserve their rights
as any other citizens. It’s not a matter of ‘protection’ and ‘control’,
but a matter of what is right by the laws of the United States. “Our
Constitution says we must take this risk.” Justice Fortas; Tinker v. Des
Moines. No matter what the administrators of the schools believe,
students must be protected from their Constitutional rights, it isn’t right,
and the rights of all citizens should be upheld, no matter age, gender,
race, or religion.
Project Local Schools The