Rights in a school: Student Rights at School: Six Things You Need To Know

Опубликовано: August 7, 2023 в 4:51 pm


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Student Rights at School: Six Things You Need To Know

Brian Tashman,
Deputy Division Director,

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September 1, 2017

While the Constitution protects the rights of students at school, many school officials are unaware of students’ legal protections, or simply ignore them.

When heading back to school this year, make sure to know your rights and ensure that your school treats every student fairly and equally. The ACLU has a long tradition of fighting to protect students’ rights, and is always ready to speak with you on a confidential basis. If you believe that your rights have been violated, don’t hesitate to contact your local ACLU affiliate.

Here are six things you need to know about your rights at school:

1. Speech rights

In the landmark Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), the ACLU successfully challenged a school district’s decision to suspend three students for wearing armbands in protest of the Vietnam War. The court declared that students and teachers do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

The First Amendment ensures that students cannot be punished for exercising free speech rights, even if school administrators don’t approve of what they are saying. Unfortunately, where legal protections are weak, schools are threatening student’s speech – and their privacy – by requiring them to reveal the contents of their social media accounts, cell phones, laptops, and other personal technologies. The ACLU is fighting for new state laws around the country that would provide stronger student privacy protections.

Over the years, the ACLU has successfully defended the right of students to wear an anti-abortion armband, a pro-LGBT t-shirt, and shirts critical of political figures. The ACLU has even defended the rights of high school students who wanted to protest the ACLU.

Contact the ACLU if you believe your school is trying to limit your First Amendment rights.

2. Dress codes

While schools are allowed to establish dress codes, students have a right to express themselves.

Dress codes are all too often used to target and shame girls, force students to conform to gender stereotypes and punish students who wear political and countercultural messages. Such policies can be used as cover for racial discrimination, by targeting students of color over supposed “gang” symbols or punishing students for wearing natural hairstyles and hair extensions. Dress codes can also infringe on a student’s religious rights by barring rosaries, headscarves and other religious symbols.

Schools must make the case that a certain kind of dress is disruptive to school activities. They cannot use dress codes to punish girls, people of color, transgender and gender non-conforming students and free speech.

If you are told to comply with a dress code that you believe is discriminatory, contact the ACLU. Complying with the dress code will not prevent you from challenging it at a later date.

3. Immigrant rights

Schools cannot discriminate against students on the basis of race, color, national origin. Undocumented children cannot be denied their right to a free public education, but some schools continue to create exclusionary policies. Last year, the ACLU sued several school districts for requiring families to prove their immigration status in order to enroll their children in school.

Students with limited English proficiency cannot be turned away by schools, which must provide them with language instruction.

Contact the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project if you have observed or experienced discrimination based on immigration status or national origin in school.

4. Disability rights

Public schools are prohibited by federal law from discriminating against people with disabilities, and cannot deny them equal access to academic courses, field trips, extracurricular activities, school technology, and health services.

Sometimes, educators and administrators discriminate by refusing to make necessary medical accommodations, restricting access to educational activities and opportunities, ignoring harassment and bullying, and failing to train staff on compliance with state and federal laws.

Schools have a duty to defend students with disabilities from bullying and biased treatment, and the ACLU is working to ensure that the rights of these students are protected.

5. LGBT rights

Bullying of LGBT students can be pervasive at schools, and is all too often ignored or encouraged by the schools themselves. LGBT students have a right to be who they are and express themselves at school. Students have a right to be out of the closet at school, and schools cannot skirt their responsibility to create a safe learning environment and address incidents of harassment.

Public schools are not allowed to threaten to “out” students to their families, overlook bullying, force students to wear clothing inconsistent with their gender identity or bar LGBT-themed clubs or attire. Transgender and gender non-conforming students often face hostile environments in which school officials refuse to refer to students by their preferred gender pronouns or provide access to appropriate bathroom and locker room facilities.

If you find that your school is undermining your rights, contact your local ACLU affiliate or the ACLU LGBT Project. Be sure to report incidents of bullying or bias to a school principal or counselor and remember to keep detailed notes of your interactions with officials and make copies of any paperwork that the school asks you to fill out.

6. Pregnancy discrimination

Since Title IX, the federal law barring sex discrimination in education, was passed in 1972, schools have been prohibited from excluding pregnant students and students with children. Yet schools often push such students to drop out by making it impossible to complete classwork, preventing them from participating in extracurricular activities, refusing to accommodate schedule adjustments, punishing them with unwarranted disciplinary actions, and pressuring them to transfer or quit school altogether.

Denying these students an education, access to school activities and reasonable accommodations violates their rights. Public schools must ensure that pregnant students have access to the same accommodations that students with temporary medical conditions are given, including the ability to make up missed classwork and learn in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. Schools are also not allowed to punish students who choose to terminate a pregnancy or reveal a student’s private medical information.

If you believe that your school is treating you unfairly for being pregnant, ending a pregnancy, or having a child, contact the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project.

Student Rights

Student Rights

If you have any questions regarding Student Rights, please contact us for a FREE STUDENT RIGHTS CONSULTATION.

  • Student Constitutional Rights.

    The United States Constitution generally applies equally to everyone, regardless of age, color, race, religion, or any other factor. However, minors are a special category of person, and in many cases, the rights of minors can be suppressed in ways that the rights of adults simply may not be.

    Student as Minor Rights.

    The most obvious reason for this is simply age. Or perhaps better stated, maturity. A four-year-old, or even a ten-year-old, cannot make, nor be expected to make, the same sorts of decisions that an adult can make. Where an adult might be perfectly free to wander the streets at night, a child seen wandering the streets at night would be taken into some sort of protective custody, even if against his will. There are other violations of a minor’s rights that on their face seem quite onerous, but for which there are many legal precedents. The most common such violations are of the rights of students. That is, of children attending school. The rights of free speech, free press, free association, and freedom from unwarranted search and seizure are points of contention between school administrators and students, and have been for decades.

    Student Rights: In Loco Parentis.

    There are several reasons why violations of student rights are upheld by the courts. One of the most basic reasons is known as in loco parentis. This Latin phrase basically means that while a student is in the custody of a school, the school can and often should act as a parent. In this duty of the school, many decisions can be made that are outside the normal governmental purview. The other basic reason for violation of student rights has to do with the goal of school — to educate. If an act of a student can interfere with the educational process, that act may, in many cases, be suppressed.

    Private School Student Rights.

    Private schools are not subject to any restrictions in terms of violations of the rights of students. Hence, while a public school might have to prove that its violations are for a higher purpose or stem from its in loco parentis responsibilities, a private school may set limits arbitrarily.

    Public School Student Rights.

    Students in public schools are not stripped of their rights completely. In Board v Barnette (319 US 624 [1943]), for example, the Supreme Court ruled that students could not be forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance nor otherwise salute the flag against their will. In Tinker v Des Moines (393 US 503 [1969]), the Supreme Court ruled that students wearing black arm bands to protest the Vietnam War could not be forced to remove the arm bands by school officials. As written in Tinker, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” The Supreme Court has recognized the importance of the free flow of ideas in schools: “The classroom is peculiarly the ‘marketplace of ideas.’ The Nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas.” (Keyishian v Board of Regents [385 US 589 {1967}]).

    Student Rights: Violations of Free Speech.

    The Supreme Court said in Tinker that “[If] conduct by the student, in class or out of it, which for any reason — whether it stems from time, place, or type of behavior — materially disrupts classwork or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others is, of course, not immunized by the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. ” This is the hinge upon which many cases turn when a school violates a student’s free speech protections. In Bethel School v Fraser (478 US 675 [1986]), the Court ruled that a school was not violating a student’s rights when it suspended a student for the use of crude language in a speech to a school assembly. Said the Court: “It does not follow … that simply because the use of an offensive form of expression may not be prohibited to adults making what the speaker considers a political point, the same latitude must be permitted to children in a public school… The determination of what manner of speech in the classroom or in school assembly is inappropriate properly rests with the school board.”

    Student Rights: Violations of Free Press.

    The Supreme Court has held that schools and school administrators can censor student publications such as student newspapers. The difference between the tolerance of expression, as in Tinker, and in promotion of student views, is the key. By wearing an arm band, a student is expressing his view and the school is not taking a stand, nor endorsing the student. But in a student newspaper, the school itself is represented in the newspaper, and by publishing a student piece, is now no longer a passive observer but an active participant. In Hazelwood School v Kuhlmeier (484 US 260 [1988]), the Supreme Court ruled that articles in the school paper that were counter to the educational mission of the school were subject to censorship.
    Though untested in court, it is probably true that students are protected in publication of “underground” newspapers, and perhaps web pages, but the distribution of those papers or use of school computers to view web pages could be restricted.

    Student Rights: Violations of Free Expression.

    The actions of students are often used to distinguish the right of speech and expression for students from the rules that can govern those rights. Again the distinction hinges on the impact of the expression on the educational process.
    In New Rider v Board (414 US 1097 [1973]), a pair of male Pawnee Indian students were suspended from school for wearing long hair in the tradition of their ancestors. The suspension was for violation of a school rule which forbade the wearing of hair that extended past the collar or ears. The Court refused to hear the case, but Justices Douglas and Marshall wrote a stinging dissent of the denial, “Petitioners were not wearing their hair in a desired style simply because it was the fashionable or accepted style, or because they somehow felt the need to register an inchoate discontent with the general malaise they might have perceived in our society. They were in fact attempting to broadcast a clear and specific message to their fellow students and others — their pride in being Indian.” Douglas wrote another dissent in a hair-length case for Olff v East Side Union (404 US 1042 [1972]). No other cases appear to have been decided by the Court on this issue, and circuit courts have made conflicting rulings.
    In Cohen v California (403 US 15 [1971]), the Court overturned a conviction of a man who wore a jacket with the words “F___ the Draft” on it. The Court ruled that the presence of a printed vulgarity cannot be sufficient cause for an arrest and 30-day imprisonment. The Court said: “Absent a more particularized and compelling reason for its actions, the State may not, consistently with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, make the simple public display here involved of this single four-letter expletive a criminal offense.” Cohen was not a student and the jacket was not displayed in a school, however. Dress codes that prohibit certain kinds of dress (like cut-off shorts or shirts with obscene or commercial messages) have not been challenged at the level of the Supreme Court, but have generally been upheld as promoting the educational process.
    In 2007, in the widely-reported case of Morse v Frederick (06-278 [2007]), better known as the “Bong hits 4 Jesus” case, the court narrowly decided that student speech off campus can be suppressed by school administrators if the speech promotes illegal activity — drug use, in this case. In the case, Joseph Frederick erected a banner along a route used to transport the Olympic torch. The route was flanked by students from Frederick’s high school. Principal Deborah Morse, on seeing the banner, had it removed and had Frederick suspended, on the premise that the banner ran counter to the school’s anti-drug themes and policies. Drawing on both Tinker and Fraser, the Court decided that the message and its most reasonable interpretations, and not the place the message was displayed, was the deciding factor: “Student speech celebrating illegal drug use at a school event, in the presence of school administrators and teachers, thus poses a particular challenge for school officials working to protect those entrusted to their care from the dangers of drug abuse.”

    Student Rights: Violations of Search and Seizure Protections.

    A tactic undertaken by more and more schools of late is that of searching of student lockers, bags, and of their persons.
    The most relevant case is New Jersey v TLO (469 US 325 [1985]). Here the Court recognized two things. First, it reaffirmed the role of the school in loco parentis, but it also recognized that school officials are representatives of the State. These two roles can come into conflict, but the Court said that students in public school are not able to assert the same rights as adults in other settings. Rules were established for searches, such as reasonableness, not excessively intrusive, and related to the offense that is being investigated.
    In the TLO case, a search of a student’s purse, the purpose for which was to find cigarettes the student was suspected of smoking on school grounds, was upheld.
    Urine tests of student athletes were upheld in Vernonia School v Acton (515 US 646 [1995]), when the court again used in loco parentis, a lowered expectation of privacy for athletes, and the need for deterrence of drug use, particularly among athletes, as justifications for forced testing. Said the Court: “Fourth Amendment rights, no less than First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, are different in public schools than elsewhere; the “reasonableness” inquiry cannot disregard the schools’ custodial and tutelary responsibility for children.
    There have been no reviews of cases of locker searches by the Supreme Court, most likely because the locker, while possibly containing personal property of the student, is itself the property of the school.
    A matter which has not yet been reviewed is what powers school officials have to search students before they are on school grounds. It is clear the that power exists on school grounds; since the power exists to provide a safe environment for learning, it may be a short leap for some schools to make to insist that they also have the power to prevent drugs or weapons from even entering school grounds. Where the limits of such a power lie, or if such a power exists at all, is subject to debate until they are taken up by the courts.

    If you have a question regarding student rights, or need an student rights attorney who has won several significant court victories against boards of education in the areas of student rights violations, please contact us for a FREE STUDENT RIGHTS CONSULTATION.

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what rights a student has at school

The rights of a child at school

These are the rights that children have on the territory of an educational institution.

The right to receive free secondary education

Article 43 of the Russian Constitution.

Public schools should be free of charge. The school should have classes for classes, a cloakroom, bathrooms, a library, a canteen, a gym that children can use for free.

The school cannot force parents to chip in for repairs, school supplies, and other needs. But if the parents take the initiative, the educational institution has the right to accept help.

The right to respect for one’s dignity and personal integrity

Article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 34 of the Law on Education in the Russian Federation.

The use of physical and psychological violence against a child is unacceptable. The boundaries of mental violence are not clearly defined, but usually it is insults, threats, criticism that brings the child out of balance.


The right to choose a school, form of education, program and language

Article 44 of the Law “On Education in the Russian Federation”.

Students and their parents can choose any educational organization. For example, you can change schools at any time or switch to family education. But one cannot come to a school in the yard and demand that the child be taught Chinese if this subject is not provided for by the curriculum of this institution.


The right not to attend classes and electives

Article 34 of the Law “On Education in the Russian Federation”.

Any extra school activities are voluntary. Teachers cannot underestimate grades or psychologically put pressure on children who do not go to electives.

The right not to participate in the improvement of the school

Article 37 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, Article 34 of the law “On Education in the Russian Federation”.

The school can hold subbotniks and invite students to them. But the student with the written consent of the parents may refuse. Helping the school with cleaning and landscaping is a right, not a duty.

The right to receive educational literature free of charge in the school library

Article 35 of the Law “On Education in the Russian Federation”.

The school must provide students with free textbooks, workbooks and other necessary aids in all subjects. Parents need to buy educational literature on their own only for electives and if the child spoiled the school textbook.

The right to free medical care at school

Article 41 of the Law “On Education in the Russian Federation”.

The school must have a medical center with a qualified medical worker, equipped with everything necessary for first aid.

The right to inviolability of property

Article 35 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

The teacher does not have the right to take away a smartphone and any other things from a child if the school charter does not prohibit the use of gadgets during classes or on school grounds.

Responsibilities of the child at school

In addition to rights, schoolchildren also have responsibilities that are established by the law “On Education in the Russian Federation” and the Charters of educational organizations. Each school has its own rules, here are some of the obligations of students.

Do not miss classes without a good reason

If the child was absent from the lesson, he must bring a certificate from the doctor or a statement from the parents to the school.

Study hard

Answer the teacher’s questions in class, do not disturb other students, do homework and tests.

Follow the school schedule

The student must come to the lessons on time, take the place assigned to him in the class, wear the uniform, if it is provided.

Take care of school property

If a student breaks a chair, smashes a projector, or tears a textbook, parents will be required to pay damages.

Respect other students and school staff

It is forbidden to provoke conflicts and inflict physical or mental violence on anyone.


Do not bring dangerous objects to school

Weapons, chemicals and the like.

Do not smoke, use alcohol or use drugs

Do not be drunk on school property.

Violations of the rights of the child at school

While the child is in school, the school administration is responsible for the observance of his rights and freedoms, and the parents are responsible for the performance of duties.

Every school should have a children’s rights ombudsman who should prevent violations of students’ rights, handle complaints, and educate students and their parents about their rights and responsibilities. In practice, unfortunately, such a specialist is not available everywhere.

It is important to note that it is possible to speak of a violation of rights only if there was arbitrariness on the part of the school, and the child was really forced to do something. Most parents don’t see anything wrong with having their kids clean up the classroom and understand that taking a gadget away during class is sometimes a necessary disciplinary measure.

But if the situation threatens the health or psyche of the child, immediate action should be taken. For information on what to do in case of violation of the rights of the child at school, read this article.

What rights of the child are often violated at school. Opinion of a lawyer

Photos: Depositphotos / Illustration: Yuliya Zamzhitskaya

On November 20, the World Children’s Day proclaimed by the UN is celebrated all over the world. On this day in 1959, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted, and in 1989th – Convention. At the same time, children’s freedom is periodically violated in schools – even those that are additionally protected in the Law “On Education”. Together with lawyer Ivan Platonov and psychologist Olga Nekrasova, we figure out how this most often happens and what parents should do about it.

The right to self-determination

Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

What is

The child has the right to express his thoughts, opinions, dress and look the way he wants. The style of clothing must match the requirements of the school, but they must not violate the constitutional rights of the student. For example, a child is required to wear a school uniform, but no one has the right to control his color and hair length, and also comment that he somehow does not look like that.

How they violate

In the fall of 2018, Zina A. from Perm came to school with pink hair. The administrator on duty stopped her, sent her to the director, where they tried to remove the student from classes. Zina consulted with her mother on the phone, and as a result, the publicity led to a scandal. At the same time, it turned out that in many cities of Russia, teachers criticize children for their appearance and, among other things, remove them from classes.

Ivan Platonov:
“Most often, it is the right to self-determination that is violated in schools. educational institutions sometimes forget that their main task is education, and not control of the appearance of the child. They often make requirements for appearance in local acts, but at the same time they can only regulate the wearing of a school uniform and appearance in technology and physical education classes. And, of course, teachers and administration do not have the right to remove students from classes – only conversations and administrative penalties.

The right to respect for one’s dignity

Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

What is

Teachers have no right to abuse a child, to humiliate him both physically and psychologically. They can give children “deuces”, but this should remain an assessment of the work, and not the personality of the student. The child has the right to be respected for who he is, even if he does not understand some topics in the lessons or solves problems more slowly than his classmates.

How they violate

Periodically, teachers scold and beat children. A teacher at a language school in Stary Oskol insulted students who did not cope with assignments. “What did you write, you freak piece”, “So that you peel off 20 times” – these and other phrases were recorded on a video published on social networks. At the same time, the schoolchildren themselves believe that the teacher is right, because she only says this when they are “engaging in stupidity.”

Olga Nekrasova:
“The child must know that no one has the right to humiliate him, insult him and use physical force. Ask the aggressor teacher about the reasons for your child’s dissatisfaction, try to find a solution. If a compromise cannot be found, find out the opinion of the parents of classmates about the teacher. If pedagogical abuse is confirmed, ask the school administration to look into it. If the management ignores the problem, and the child still reports violations, contact the higher authorities and change the school.”

Even more useful materials – in the Telegram channel of the Pedagogical Council. Subscribe to keep up to date with the latest articles and news.


The right to inviolability of property

Article 35 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation

What is

No one should take away the personal belongings of the child – neither students nor teachers. This applies, for example, phones, books, ritual accessories.

How they violate

Most often, they take away the phone in which the student is sitting during class. Sometimes teachers do this before the start of each lesson. Such things are not uncommon, so parents and children do not even complain anymore. But sometimes such cases get into the media. For example, a resident of Novosibirsk stated that a teacher took her son’s phone away from her son during a lesson, and then they demanded that he remove the wallpaper with an anime picture from the screen.

Ivan Platonov:
“Students have the right to own, use and dispose of their property, including mobile phones. Whatever the student does with the gadget, he is responsible for it himself. And the teacher does not have the right to demand that the phone be handed over before the lesson – this is how he violates Art. 209 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation, paragraph 1. art. 35 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. But even if the student voluntarily hand over his things to the teacher, then a storage deal is immediately concluded between them. And now the teacher is obliged to be responsible for the phone, to give it to the student in the same form that he received. It is unlikely that a teacher would like to bear such responsibility.

The teacher can tell the child that the phone cannot be used as an educational tool – such norms are prescribed in the SanPiN, which entered into force on January 1, 2021. But in any case, he does not have the right to forbid the student to check calls and messages and pick up the phone during the lesson.

The right to freedom of speech, conscience and expression of personal opinion

Article 14 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

What is it them views, if it does not violate the laws of the Russian Federation.


Principals often threaten expulsion of students who express oppositional views or attend rallies. These cases are happening all over the country. At the same time, the administration and teachers often find out that students participated in political actions through reposts in social networks. Sometimes they are monitored purposefully.

In addition, children are not provided with facilities for religious duties. For example, in the Chelyabinsk region, an imam complained that his children, students of a general education school, were unable to pray. But this, rather, does not happen out of malicious intent, but because the administration cannot understand how to act in such a situation.

Ivan Platonov:
“If a school monitors social networks and decides what to do with students based on posts and reposts, then this violates, at a minimum, the law on the protection of personal data. No one has the right to collect, process and store private data without permission.”

The right to learn in a safe environment

Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

What it is

The student must be safe on school grounds and in the classroom. That is, sewer manholes must be closed, snow must be cleared from roofs, and so on.

How they violate it

Not all schools have ramps for people with limited mobility. At the same time, it is assumed that any general educational institutions are accessible to children with disabilities. This does not mean that they must have elevators, but porch ramps are a natural necessity. There are cases when courts or city education departments force them to install them.

Ivan Platonov:
“The problem here is not in the schools themselves, but in their financing. You need to file a complaint about the underfunding of the educational institution. Sometimes a school barely has enough money to pay salaries to teachers, not to mention making purchases. An example of this is the state of emergency in Tatarstan. The gymnasium simply did not have money for a contract with a good private security company.

What should a parent do if a child’s rights are violated at school

  1. Make sure that there has been a violation.
    Sometimes children exaggerate – they say that the teacher was cursing, although he simply raised his voice. This also affects the child, but not the fact that it violates his rights.
  2. Gather evidence of violation.
    Audio recordings, video recordings, eyewitness testimony. If you manage to find a common language with the administration, the evidence will not be useful. But if the school starts to fight with you and you have to write a statement to the prosecutor’s office, go to court, then you will need it.
  3. To study the local acts of the school.
    The charter of the school stipulates how a child can be dressed, what he can bring into the building. This document is accepted only with the participation of parents and students – otherwise the parent committee has the right to revise it. In addition, the charter should not contradict the fundamental laws of the Russian Federation. For example, if the law “On Education” says only about the compulsory school uniform, then the administration cannot regulate the color, length of hair and type of hairstyle.
  4. Find out what norms have been violated at school.
    Knowing the exact articles will give confidence in a conversation with the director. And if you write a statement to the municipal department of education, it will be easier for officials to respond to your complaint.
  5. Talk to school representatives.
    Tune in not to war, but to a constructive conversation. If you are dissatisfied with the actions of a teacher who, for example, takes the phone from a student, do not demand to fire him. The administration should just figure out why he acted one way or another.

    If you understand that the administration supports the actions of the teacher – for example, the director believes that students should not dye their hair pink and wear a badge with a skull and crossbones – then try to find support in the face of other parents. But be prepared for the fact that the school may have a conservative majority. But in any case, teachers do not have the right to suspend students from classes.