Students need to be informed of their rights and the responsibilities that come with them. The key rights we have as students are shown in the Constitution's Bill of Rights. The two amendments that are crucial for students to understand are the First, and Fourth Amendments. The Fourth Amendment is freedom from unreasonable searches and/or seizures, (rights of privacy). The First Amendment right is freedom of speech/expression. This is the topic I am going to be focusing on. I want to inform kids of how we can use this right to better our communities, and how we can make positive change.
With these rights come responsibilities that are very important in order to maintain balance in our society and small communities. With the right of free speech and expression, there are still limitations and boundaries that need to be kept. We can’t just say whatever we want. For example; it is our responsibility to be respectful of others and their opinions and rights. There are many different views out there, and everyone deserves to express their own personal ideas. Our right is not to be used for offending others with our opinions and/or judgement. To maintain balance in our society we need to understand how to use our rights respectively.
Here is an example of students using their right respectively: a local case involving raising a Black Lives Matter flag. These teens were able to make positive change and stand up for what they believe in by using their right of free speech effectively. At Montpelier High School in VT, there are 350 students total. Out of this number, only 18 teenagers are black. Students at this school decided to step up during February of 2018 and advocate for black lives and their education. Their message was about bringing light to equity and racial justice in school systems. They also wanted to start conversations about racism in education. They are making sure schools and education systems are more inclusive when it comes to race. Their general message was “Equity For All”. One of their reasons for doing it at the time they did, was for Black History Month. They created a banner with the words; “Black Lives Matter,” and this flag stayed up all month. Of course the students movement did have its share of backlash, including angry phone calls and social media posts. Not only did these teens use their rights effectively, they stood up for them as well. I believe that is so crucial for students to do so that we can make sure our rights are respected by others, too. Over all, I thought this example of students speaking up about issues they feel are important was perfect in showing how we as teenagers and kids can use our rights respectively for the better.
Now, here’s a time when students rights were tested by their users, and how the teens were then able to stand up for themselves even when they were sent all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1965-Tinker V. Des Moines, three teens living in Iowa wore black armbands to protest the Vietnam War. At school, they were told to take off their armbands, but they refused to, causing them to get suspended. With their parents, the teens sued the school because they felt as though their first amendment right was being violated. This case went all the way to the Supreme Court, who soon agreed with the teens. To defend their choice, the Supreme Court stated; “Students and teachers don't shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." I thought this was a perfect example of students defending their rights. While some people may not have agreed with their view on the Vietnam War, these students showed their opinion respectfully. Because of court cases like these, awareness of student rights have been heightened, and have been used as leverage on other similar cases closer to the present day.
Landmark cases such as Tinker V. Des Moines have helped make an effect on student rights. They are key examples of what rights we have as students, and how we can use them. Judges can refer to these examples to help them make their final verdict. These cases are what help form amendments and start conversations and questions about our rights and responsibilities. The conversations and situations have helped to shape people's perspectives over time so that students can apply their rights and make change in the world. For example this year, (2018) many students at high schools all over the U.S are standing up for gun rights. Because of all the school shootings that have occurred, teens are taking a stand. They’ve had enough and are starting conversations about safety at schools. Because of these students, rights have been changing in many states. They have shaped change.
What can you do? To continue advocating and staying involved in student rights you can do many things. Listen to the news, read the newspaper, ask questions! You can listen to your kids/students ideas, let them have a voice. Be open to the new ideas that they can bring. Student rights are becoming more and more important everyday. To help continue their growth, the simplest thing you can do is keep listening and start conversations.