Know Your Rights

The First Amendment Rights You Have In School

Students at a high school in Maryland participated in a walkout to protest gun laws.

Students at a high school in Maryland participated in a walkout to protest gun laws.

Emily Swanson, Staff Writer

The First Amendment of the American Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, religion, press, petition, and assembly. Despite that, in the public school system, students will face consequences for exercising some of these rights. These include protest, press, expression, and assembly. However, there are some rights students actually have that teachers and administration can’t take away.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), students attending public school are able to express their opinions, even if others don’t agree with it. Expression is allowed not only in speech but in clothing, as long as it is appropriate. Students can also peacefully protest without disciplinary actions due to the content of the protest. In 1969, the Supreme Court decided that schoolchildren still have the rights of expression in the case Tinker v. Des Moines. A junior high student was suspended for wearing a black armband to protest the Vietnam War, so her and her family took it to court. The ruling of this case still remains today.

Yes, it is legal for the staff of public schools to limit free speech. However, according to the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), free speech may be censored and banned for educational purposes. Schools can also punish students for vulgar speech, threats, or encouraging illegal activity. The Supreme Court reached this ruling in the 1987 Hazelwood School District v Kuhlmeier case, in which the administration at Hazelwood High School refused to publish an issue of the school newspaper due t0 inappropriate content.

Since the Parkland shooting, students have began to protest gun laws. One of the more popular, and controversial, forms has been school walkouts. According to the ACLU, a school does not have the right to punish students for the sole reason of protesting gun control. However, if the school has preexisting rules against missing class, the administration will be able to punish protesters accordingly. For example, Northmont High School has rules in the code of conduct against missing class. If a student skips class without permission, they will be given two Saturday detentions on the first violation.

While they are limited, grade school students still have their first amendment rights. If the limited rights are violated, it’s possible to take legal action against the school.