What Are Some of a Student's Rights in Public School Systems?


Quick Answer

Students in public schools have limited rights to free expression, a free press, and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. These rights are restricted by the state's in loco parentis responsibilities.

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Full Answer

Public school students have many of the same rights as adults, but these rights are restricted by the doctrine of in loco parentis. In loco parentis means that the state is required to stand in a parental role when students attend public schools, and thus it is entitled to restrict student activities that interfere with its ability to educate students.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the authority of public schools to suspend students who use vulgar language during school activities. The court reasoned that schools may dictate the types of speech allowed during assemblies and other school activities to avoid disruption of its educational mission. Similarly, the Supreme Court affirmed the right of public schools to censor content in student newspapers. Other courts have concluded that schools may search students and their property to ensure student safety.

In some cases, however, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld students' rights when student activities were not impacting the school's ability to educate students. The court has held that schools may not force students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or salute the flag. It has also affirmed the rights of students to wear black arm bands in protest of the Vietnam War.

Students in private schools do not have the same rights as public school students since the U.S. Constitution only restricts the government and not private entities from interfering with personal liberty.

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