By Johanna Kaiser, Communications & Development Associate
As a new school year begins, it’s important to remember that, as the U.S. Supreme Court famously ruled, students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate. Unfortunately, children and teens—who are already facing myriad changes and challenges as they navigate the social and academic worlds of their schools—still face threats to their rights in the classroom.
Since a public school is often a person’s first encounter with government, the ACLU believes it is vital to help students appreciate the importance of their civil liberties and to help them exercise and protect their rights. That is why we have often reaffirmed students’ fundamental rights to free speech, religious freedom, privacy due process and equal protection.
In addition to coming to the defense of students whose rights have been violated, the ACLU also provides educational materials to inform students and parents of their rights and answer some common questions that arise nearly every school year.
Told to change your shirt because of its political message? Check out our brochure on school dress codes.
Worried your child has been wrongly searched or unfairly suspended? Read our guide to school discipline. (You can also learn about suspension rates at your school by reading our Blacklisted or Suspended Education reports, outlining the disparate discipline rates for students of color and students with disabilities.)
Want to know more about your rights when posting to Facebook or Instagram? Our Students and Technology pamphlet offers a general outline of some laws.
Dealing with truancy issues? Know your rights in Truancy Court with this brochure.
Be sure to share these brochures with friends and classmates, and if you feel you’re rights have been violated you can contact our office. Teachers are also welcome to request brochures for students or request an ACLU staff person or attorney speak to a class about civil liberties and our work in Rhode Island.