The United States Constitution was written to guarantee the people of America’s basic rights are protected. The most important aspects of the Constitution are the Bill of Rights. This is the first Ten Amendments. Of these Ten Amendments, the first is this:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” –First Amendment to the Constitution (First Amendment Rights, 2014).
Many people blindly assume that the First Amendment means that they can say whatever they want without any consequence, there have been incidents in history where a student sued the school district for “violating their right to speech”, but as evident from Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969), students only have a freedom to speech, up to a point (Jacobs, 2008). The students who were suing the school district, John and Mary beth Tinker and Chris Eckhardt decided to show their thoughts on the Vietnam war by waring black armbands in school. They got suspended when they refused to take them off. The Supreme Court agreed with the students, because they were not disrupting the classroom. Future cases have discussed issues such as school attire, like allowing piercings or dying hair color, but one cannot wear a shirt that promotes drug use, or a Confederate flag, (Jacobs, 2008).
Upon reading the article, “10 Supreme Court Cases Every Teen Should Know” (Jacobs, 2008), I realized how limited my knowledge was about certain rights that students have. I was always aware of the freedom of speech and religion in school, but was surprised to hear about the other cases that included corporal punishment as well as privacy rights of students. For example, in the case of Stafford Unified School District v. Redding, in where Savana Redding’s mother sued the school district for allowing her 14-year old honor roll student daughter who had never been in trouble before to be subjected to a strip-search because another student had blamed her for having pills, (Safford Unified School District v. Redding, n.d.) As a parent of a young child, this scares me, and I am now more aware of my child’s rights in school, as well as those of my students.
As a Deaf Education teacher, one of my jobs is to protect my students as well as teaching them to advocate for themselves, especially because they are deaf. Because of their deafness, they are to receive a FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) of 1973, (Free Appropriate Public Education under Section 504, 2010). These students are not aware of their rights as students in general, never mind that they are deaf and are protected under more laws because of their dis/ability. Additionally, these students need to be aware of their rights under ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) law.
Teachers also have rights, that includes, but is not limited to: teacher right to union, constitutional rights, tenure, discrimination, leaves, resignation, suspension, liability, felony, child abuse, and appeals (Teacher and School Staff Rights, 2011). One that is important for me as a deaf person is the ADA law, which states that I can not be discriminated when trying to find a job just because of my dis/ability. Employers cannot discriminate and also “the law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer,” (Disability Discrimination, n.d.)
In The Teacher Wars, I learned that in light of women’s rights and women’s suffrage during the 1800s, there was a woman named Margaret Haley, who fought for women teachers to finally have higher pay after years of low pay and pay freezes, as well as more political power in education, (Goldstein, 2014). We must remember that all students and all teachers are human beings, and this means that all of us have rights in this country.