Student Rights

Have courts gone too far or not far enough?
By Kenneth Jost, June 5, 2009

The Supreme Court introduced a new era in public education in the United States in 1969 by declaring that students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate. Four decades later, state and federal court dockets are dotted with suits by students or parents challenging disciplinary decisions and school policies and practices. The Supreme Court, which has upheld random drug testing of students, is currently considering whether an Arizona school district violated a teenaged girl’s rights by strip-searching her because of what proved to be an unfounded accusation that she was carrying a prescription-strength pain reliever.

Student-speech cases often pose difficult issues as administrators, principals and teachers seek to reconcile students’ free-speech rights with the need to prevent disruption, maintain discipline and protect rights of teachers and other students. In recent years, judges appear to be giving more deference to schools — a trend applauded by many educators but criticized by student-rights advocates.

The Issues:

*Do schools' anti-drug enforcement policies violate students' rights?
*Do schools improperly limit students' free-speech rights?
*Do schools improperly limit students' religious freedoms?

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