Next February marks the fortieth anniversary of the decision in Tinker v. Des Moines, the high watermark in U.S. Supreme Court recognition of the rights of students in schools. It is an appropriate time to take stock of the rights of students and the issues they face in school.
As the fortieth anniversary of the landmark decision in Tinker approaches, Mary Beth Tinker reflects on student rights today.
The idea that student journalists in colleges and high schools are entitled to First Amendment protection from school censorship is now well-settled law. But the extent of that protection is being tested by subtler and less direct forms of censorship, which courts have confronted with varying results.
The shootings at Virginia Tech are viewed as illustrative of a direct conflict between student privacy and campus security. While tension exists between these values, it is inaccurate to characterize them as directly in conflict. In fact, federal privacy protection law provides plenty of opportunities for information sharing in situations where campus security may be implicated. In addition, campuses are, for the most part, safe.
By censoring and distorting information and prohibiting teachers and health educators from providing factual information, abstinence-only programs raise numerous human rights and ethical concerns. There is some hope that a change in the federal administration as well as the growing body of evidence that abstinence-only programs do not work will lead to change in policy at both federal and state levels.
While all students are vulnerable to assaults on their rights, girls and women face distinct challenges with the increasingly popular notion of sex-segregated educational programs, the lack of opportunities as a result of sexual violence, and the inadequate educational programs for girls in the juvenile justice system.
As GLBT students seek to be recognized as a vital part of the academic community, their freedom of speech can be threatened by schools' efforts to minimize their visibility.
Mary Beth Tinker has been standing up for the rights of students for more than forty ears, and one of the things that keeps here going is the young people she meets who are also willing to fight for what they believe.