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    Students Rights in the Public School System Essay

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    Students’ rights in the public school system. I chose to do my report on students’ rights in the public school system. Lisa Rowe, who was then sixteen and a student at Teaneck High School in New Jersey, thought she was doing a good deed when she returned a purse she had found in her English class. However, instead of being rewarded, she was told to step into the principal’s office, asked to pull up her sweater and pull down her slacks, and then searched. Why? In case she was hiding stolen money from the purse. This is just one example of how students’ rights are being violated, and here is another.

    In the case T.L.O. vs New Jersey, a girl got caught smoking in the bathroom of her school. She was then taken to the office and asked to open her purse and spill out the contents. What was found in the purse was marijuana, a roll of money, and notes suggesting that she was a marijuana dealer.

    Her parents filed a lawsuit against the school on the basis that the evidence found was obtained illegally because no search warrant was used. In 1985, the case reached the Supreme Court. The court ruled that the Fourth Amendment rights did not apply in school, and school officials still have to have reasonable suspicion, not probable cause. Another famous case is TINKER Vs DES MOINES, where two students wanted to protest the war by wearing armbands. When school officials saw what the two students were wearing, the teachers demanded that the students take the armbands off immediately.

    The case made it all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that students have the right to wear armbands as long as they do not harm themselves or anyone else. This case highlights a couple of laws regarding students’ rights. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, press, religion, and the right to peaceful assembly. The Second Amendment protects the right to be secure in one’s home and personal belongings, but only upon probable cause.

    Can students’ lockers be searched without a search warrant? Yes, lockers can be searched with only reasonable suspicion that a rule or law has been broken. Can students be subject to mass searches on campus? No, suspicion must be directed at each student being searched. What should you do if something of yours is being searched? The best thing to do is to say in a loud, clear voice that you don’t want them to search your things so that you can have witnesses, but don’t try to stop them. Most importantly, don’t put anything in your locker that you don’t want anyone to see. I feel that students’ rights are being violated more than people know. If more people knew exactly what rights they had, it would make a lot of things better and easier to understand.


    • Cover, Marilyn. Should Students Have Rights?” Update, Winter 1985, pp. 11-15. Reprinted in Privacy, Volume 3 (Boca Raton, Florida: Social Resources Series, Inc., 1993), article number 42.
    • Price, Janet R., Levine, Alan H., Cary, Eve. The Rights of Students. American Civil Liberties Union, 1988.
    • Schuessler, Nancy. “A Question of Rights.” Seventeen, May 1989, pp. 192-193, 207.
    • Sudo, Phil. “Do You Know Your Rights?” Scholastic Update, September 21, 1990, pp. 6-8, 25-26.
    • Zirkel, Perry A. “Searching and Researching.” Phi Delta Kappan, Volume 71, December 1989, pp. 330-332.


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