What rights should be protected for students and teachers?

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.


Disability Discrimination. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm
First Amendment Rights. (2014). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.ushistory.org/gov/10b.asp
Free Appropriate Public Education under Section 504. (2010, August). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/edlite-FAPE504.html
Goldstein, D. (2014). The teacher wars: A history of America’s most embattled profession. New York: Doubleday.
“Safford Unified School District v. Redding.” Oyez. Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech, n.d. Feb 26, 2016. <https://www.oyez.org/cases/2008/08-479&gt;
Teacher and School Staff Rights. (2011). Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.educationrights.com/teacherrights.php

4 thoughts on “What rights should be protected for students and teachers?

  1. Most students, teachers, and parents are not aware of their rights until things escalate to a point that legal counsel needs to be brought in. As far as I can remember, the public education system only touches on our constitutional rights briefly, certainly not to the extent that it would do most people any good. As Americans, we are all endowed with certain rights and protections under the constitution. The fact that every citizen is not implicitly aware of their rights is a sad facet if our society. As teachers, we are in the position to stand up for our students when they receive punishment for something that is perfectly within their rights but how do we do this? It is difficult to advocate for every student that we come in contact with that is why it is essential for us to better educate students on their rights so they know when they are being violated. By doing so, we are not only protecting them in the present, but also preparing them for a future in which they may come into conflict with the justice system.


    1. Yes, we need to teach our students to know their rights and be able to advocate for themselves because we can not do it all for them at all times. You are right in that it is a sad facet in our society that many do now know what their rights are. I wonder if it would be beneficial to have a counselor or someone that comes to the school and presents about certain topics like this so that students are better educated about their own rights? Like they have lectures about Sex Ed and being drug free, why not have a lecture on this topic?


  2. Hello Whitney,
    I enjoyed reading your post about the rights of teachers and students. I am very interested in learning as much as possible about this subject because it is vital to our careers as educators. I found the ada.gov website to be very informative. This site explains in great detail the rights of Americans with disabilities and serves as a guide to disabilities laws. It explains in details the American with Disability Act, the Telecommunication Act, Fair Housing Act, Air Carrier Access Act, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicap act, National Voter Registration Act, Civil Rights of Institutionalized Person Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Rehabilitation Act, Architectural Barriers Act, General Sources of Disability Rights information, and Statute Citations. The guide gives an overview of the Federal civil rights laws that ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities. The ada.gov website also gives resources for people who would like to learn more about these laws and how they may apply to you or others. It is also great that teachers have rights and are protected by the laws as well. There is no way that I can observe the past and history of education and the educators and revolutionaries that paved the way and not be extremely thankful. I truly enjoy learning about this subject! Thank you so much for sharing this information.


    1. I think that it is crazy that we have so many laws and Acts out there, but they are an absolute necessity to protect the people. If only everyone had morals and did what was right, then we would not have a need for so many laws. Unfortunately, even with laws, people can find ways around the law. For example, the case of Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District, Westchester County, et al., Petitioners v. Amy Rowley, by her parents, Rowley et al. In this particular case, Amy Rowley is a deaf 1st grader who was denied access to a Sign Language interpreter because after having been provided one for two weeks, the district determined that she did not need one because she was doing very well in her classes. She was given speech therapy, a FM system (hearing amplification), and a tutor for one hour per day, but not a Sign Language interpreter, (Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley (n.d.)). This particular case went all the way to the Supreme Court and although they won this case at the lower courts, they lost in the Supreme Court. The District Courts agreed that although she was doing well in class, she understands considerably less than her hearing peers do and that she was not learning at her full potential. The Supreme Court determined that Amy had received a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) because she was doing well. This particular case failed to protect Amy.

      Unfortunately, this does happen more often than we think. Something similar happened to me as a deaf child. My father had to take my school district to court twice so that I could attend my home school with the use of a Sign Language Interpreter instead of riding a bus half an hour away to go to a school that already provided services for the deaf (Deaf Education classes and Sign Language interpreters). We won the case the first year (5th grade), but lost the following year (6th grade).


      Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley | law case. (n.d.). Retrieved March 5, 2016, from http://www.britannica.com/topic/Board-of-Education-of-the-Hendrick-Hudson-Central-School-District-v-Rowley


      458 U.S. 176; 102 S. Ct. 3034; 73 L. Ed. 2d 690 (1982)


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