Understanding student rights must be at the forefront of and administrator and an educator. They are required to ensure that these rights are protected while at school. As United States citizens, children are entitled to some of the rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Schools have the ability to create rules and policies; however, the rules cannot conflict with the inherent civil rights of any person.

Free Speech

Americans have the right to free speech. In schools, students must be able to express themselves, but that right is balanced against the important goal of maintaining a safe and viable educational environment.  For example, a student’s right to free speech does not include the right to use profanity or incite violence in a school.  Thus, a student’s rights are weighed with the other important rights at issue, such as the right to an education.

Right to Privacy

Students have a right to privacy. This right, again, is balanced with the rights attendant to maintaining a safe school.  For example, students often utilize online social media to communicate with others. Since these types of sites are generally available to the public, school administrators are able to view the information posted. When administrators are faced with threats, they need to work with law enforcement to ensure a safe and legal resolution. Students using school equipment or Internet services may be subject to the rules the school has established.

Freedom of Religion

Religious freedom is an area that educators must be aware of when setting policies. For example, some religions require specific types of attire which must be allowed as part of dress code rules. In addition to clothing, some religions have other requirements that students must follow. Proper lunch or snack options should be made available for students with particular religious dietary requirements.

Fair and Equal Treatment

Care must be taken to ensure that all students are treated equally and fairly at all times.  No specific students or groups can be singled out or treated differently from others. Schools do, however, have the ability to enforce policies and rules that apply to all students. Student rights must be considered when writing school rules. Policies must reflect fair and equal treatment regardless of religion, sexual orientation, race, and other factors. It is helpful to consult with a qualified education law attorney before final implementation of the rules. Your attorney will help you to make certain that school rules are made in accordance with governing laws.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Understanding Student Rights, or other Education Law matters, please feel free to contact Candyce B. Pardee at  800.863.6718, log on to udallshumway.com,  or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona with a branch office in Yuma, Arizona, and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.