Superintendent or Constitutional Scholar?

Today’s Education Leaders Wear Both Hats to Weigh Student Rights

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If we are to manage the liberties of the individual while providing an education in a non-threatening, respectful environment, we will need to initiate what may be a polite but uncomfortable conversation about our entitlements and obligations.

A school is a community entitled to these rights, except when it is not.

After all, offensive is often in the eye of the beholder. At a time when we would like civil discourse, civility is in short supply. At a time when common sense is fairly uncommon, educators cannot fail to recognize student civil rights.

After all, offensive is often in the eye of the beholder. At a time when we would like civil discourse, civility is in short supply. At a time when common sense is fairly uncommon, educators cannot fail to recognize student civil rights.

“I think it’s important to note that while schools do have some authority to take custodial care of children while they’re in attendance, it’s been clear for at least seven decades now that students do not lose their constitutional rights when they go to school.”

“The test for determining whether or not a school can exercise its in loco parentis authority to suppress speech is whether or not the school reasonably forecasts disruption. The school must base that on actual facts before it. It can’t be just hypothetical. Although schools have some loco parentis authority, it’s also emphatically the case that students have their First Amendment rights while at school,” Hauss said. When determining whether a situation at hand needs to be curtailed, document the facts that demonstrate evidence of disruption.

When determining whether a situation at hand needs to be curtailed, document the facts that demonstrate evidence of disruption. Document the Facts

When determining whether a situation at hand needs to be curtailed, document the facts that demonstrate evidence of disruption.

LIBERTY // The condition of being free to choose, esp. as between ways of acting or living with an implication of wisdom and voluntary restraint

The Student newspaper

David Hudson, Jr. is an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University, First Amendment ombudsman for the Newseum Institute First Amendment Center and the author of “Let the Students Speak!: A History of the Fight for Free Expression in American Schools.” The book is well worth reading for any educator seeking a legal history of student expression and, as important, insights into the impulses that drive student expression and our responses. Familiarize yourself with precedence and potential scenarios related to freedom of expression. In doing so, you will be more likely to calmly engage those affected and make arguments grounded in fact.

While he’s a champion of student journalism, he also believes that an educator should teach the responsibilities of free speech. “I do think you want to educate students about libel laws and privacy laws. There are certain types of stories you want to look out for. You want to inculcate a culture of double-checking and editing thoroughly,” Hudson said.

Such care, though, is not a censorship tool. “Do you want to censor material just because you think it might ruffle some feathers? Good journalism is going to ruffle some feathers… We don’t want to silence the voices of students who are really trying to learn journalism,” Hudson said.

When determining whether a situation at hand needs to be curtailed, document the facts that demonstrate evidence of disruption. Grounded In Fact

Familiarize yourself with precedence and potential scenarios related to freedom of expression. In doing so, you will be more likely to calmly engage those affected and make arguments grounded in fact.

The Fourth amendment

Corporal punishment?

Use this summary of cases concerning student rights in educational settings to guide decision-making when considering whether speech or behavior is actually “disruptive.”

student-rights-in-educational-settings

In all such cases educators would need to consider not only the law but also the interpretation of the law in relation to the community. For instance, one school was overruled in not allowing a nose ring on one student, while another school was allowed to ask a student to remove a shirt decorated with a Confederate flag. In cases of religious liberty, a school was not allowed to appoint a school student chaplain while another school was forced to allow an after-hours religious club to hold meetings on school grounds because the club was not funded or otherwise supported by the school.

While student rights are clearly not absolute, neither are an educator’s right to enforce discipline arbitrarily.

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The issue and protection of Civil Rights in public schools is one of the mandates of the U.S. Department of Education. Last year in a streamlining of the agency, more than 200 people accepted voluntary buyouts, with more coming from the Civil Rights Office than any other department.

As USED abdicates responsibility here, state and district leadership will become even more essential.

rather than speech or expression that is truly disruptive

What's likely to become increasingly challenging is tracking the extent to which community and broader national context make previously annoying statements or behaviors into true disruptions.

For an educator to predict disruption may well require skills in evidence gathering, rather than simple intuition

How might we grow these skills and calibrate within a community around this capacity?

an ironic position

This is such a key point that we are protecting voices at all points on a continuum.

While student rights are clearly not absolute, neither are an educator’s right to enforce discipline arbitrarily.

What kind of process might guide communities in determining whether speech/behaviors are "disruptive" in their environment?