teacher in the Denver area made a vicious diatribe against President Bush, and
the student who recorded it got in so much "trouble" for publishing the truth
that he had to transfer schools. Is this an exception to the rule? Shouldn't
student rights be paramount to teacher rights? And overall, are schools
honoring the rights of students?
large, school systems do an incredibly good job of looking after the individual
legal rights of students, especially those who are more vulnerable than other
minor children because they are disadvantaged or have special learning needs.
there are incidents such as you mention, when world geography teacher Jay
Bennish of Overland High School in the Cherry Creek Schools went off on Bush,
capitalism, even tobacco fields in North Carolina to a class of sophomores. The
20-minute rant, said to be nearly a daily occurrence, was captured in a
recording by student Sean Allen, later shared with the media, and created a
firestorm of bad publicity for the district. The teacher was placed on paid
leave and eventually reinstated. The student did transfer, citing intense
pressure and reprisals for exposing the teacher's invective. Here's the audio:
incident pointed out that even though minor children are a captive audience in
the school setting, they still do have certain rights, and not all of them are
formal. A student like Sean Allen has freedom of conscience: he recorded the
teacher and published the results knowing full well that things might get ugly
afterwards, and they did.
Many other student rights are just
common sense: the right to hear both sides of an argument; the right to know
the difference between a fact, an opinion, a belief and propaganda; and the
right to learn academic content in an environment free of indoctrination,
intimidation, retaliation and insult. Good teachers and administrators make
sure those rights are upheld.
those, the legal rights of students are generally less than the legal rights of
adult citizens in the larger world. While schools are supposed to uphold the
constitutional rights of minor children, they have more leeway in dealing with
them than other government officials do with adults outside schools.
example, because of court rulings, school officials do not have to have a
warrant, or even probable cause, to search a student's purse, backpack or
locker. They can require a drug test before a student participates in an
extracurricular activity representing the school, such as a sport.
They can suspend you or discipline
you if you leave school or even a classroom without permission. Because of
compulsory education laws, they can jail your parents if you aren't in school
and are supposed to be.
They can discipline you for
exercising your free speech rights if you "materially" and "substantially"
disrupt the school day. They can make you wear a school uniform. They can track
what websites you looked at on a school computer.
If misconduct is alleged, you don't
get an attorney or a jury trial, just notification of what you're accused of
doing and a chance to tell your side of the story.
Increasingly, because of school
violence in places like Columbine High School, Littleton, Colo., school
officials have adopted "zero tolerance" policies and may suspend or expel a
student for writing violent poetry lyrics in an English class assignment, and although
they're overstepping their bounds, they have been known to discipline students
for things that they write or say outside of school property, on their own
Student religious rights are
defended by groups such as The Rutherford
Institute, emphasizing that when religious activity - prayer, Bible
reading, references to God and faith - are student-initiated, that activity is
fully constitutional and should be allowed and protected within school walls.
Homework: Here's an article on student rights
from the American Bar Association:
another list of student rights from a First Amendment and freedom of religion