Freedom of Expression:
All people in the United States are guaranteed this right by the Constitution. Students, however, do not have this right to the same extent as adults. This is because public schools are required to protect all students at the school. The major aspects of this right are speech and dress. Both the right to speech and dress are not absolute in public high schools. According to the American Civil Liberties Union: "You (students) have a right to express your opinions as long as you do so in a way that doesn't 'materially and substantially' dirsupt classes or other school activities. If you hold a protest on the school steps and block the entrance to the building, school officials can stop you. They can probably also stop you from using language they think is 'vulgar or indecent'("Ask Sybil Libert" ACLU 1998). Public schools can also restrict student dress. In 1987 in Harper v. Edgewood Board of Education the court upheld "a dress regulation that required students to 'dress in conformity wit hthe accepted standards of the community'"(Whalen 72). This means that schools can restrict clothing with vulgarities and such, but they cannot restrict religious clothing: "School officials must accomodate student's religious beliefs by permitting the wearing of religious clothing when such clothing must be worn during the school day as a part of the student's religious practice"(Whalen 78).
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The right to freedom of religion includes the right to be free from religion: "Public schools are run by the government. Therefore, they must obey the First Amendment. This means that they can teach about the influences of religion in history, literature, and philosophy- they can't promote religious beliefs or practices as a part of the curriculum...Also, students can be excused from some school activities if they conflict with their religious beliefs" ("Ask Sybil Liberty" 1998). The issue of religion has also been brought up in regards to prayer and graduation. In 1992, the United States Supreme Court in Lee v. Weisman stated, "The First Amendment's Religion Clauses mean that religious beliefs and religious expression are too precious to be either proscribed or prescribed by the State" (Harrison and Gilbert 161). The court held that prayers at public high school graduations are unconstitutional. However, students can pray and have prayer groups at school if the groups are not sponsored or endorsed by school officials.
Fair Treatment and Equality in Education:
All students are guaranteed the right to equal education opportunity, despite their color, race, religion, class, sex or citizenship. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas set the standard for the desegregation of public schools and this case also started the movement for equal educational opportunities. The right to equal education also includes students with disabilities because of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that all students should have the same opportunities in public high schools. Fair treatment is basically giving due process to all public high school students. This includes guaranteeing hearings for suspended students. This was not recognized as a right until 1975 and Goss v. Lopez. All students in public high schools are now entitled to due process.
Right to Private Records and Privacy
Student records contain information from test scores to health records. Students have the right to view these records only after they turn 18: "Schools that recieve any federal funding must make student records available by parents and students themselves if they are 18 or older" ("Ask Sybil Liberty" 1998). Depending on the state, teachers, social workers, employers and the police may also have access to the records. Student privacy is the right of a student to be secure in their person. When dealing with the privacy of public high school students, the administration of that school has more power to restrict that right than any other right of a student in public high school. In New Jersey v. T.L.O., Justice Byron White state, "A school official may properly conduct a search of a student's person if the official has a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is in the process of being committed, or a resonable cause to believe that the search is necessary to maintain school discipline or enforce school policies"(Harrison and Gilbert 110). Students do not have an absolute right to privacy in public high schools.