What are My Rights as a Student?

teacher is talking to the student

A federal District Court judge in Ohio recently ruled that a school violated a student’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy when he was required to use a webcam to show his bedroom before taking an online test. The school’s requirement that student’s show the location they are taking the test from was intended to prevent cheating. The ruling sets a precedent regarding student privacy rights. You can read more about the case here: Video scan of student’s room before online test is illegal, judge says (usatoday.com)

Many students are curious about what their rights are while at school. Does a student under the age of 18 have any rights? Does the Constitution apply inside of a school? Students do have privacy rights while in school, but these privacy rights are limited compared to the privacy rights people have outside of schools. This means that although students do have rights, a school has the power to limit them. In 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court held that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” This is also applies to other fundamental rights.

Here are some very general rules:

  • Students have the right to speak out, hand out flyers and petitions, and wear expressive clothing in school, as long as the student doesn’t disrupt the functioning of the school or violate school policies that don’t depend on the message expressed.
  • If questioned, students have the right to remain silent. You also have the right to refuse to write or sign a statement. But if you voluntarily give up these rights, anything you say, write, or sign can be used against you in a court of law.
  • Although there are exceptions, a school must have “reasonable suspicion” to search a student or a student’s backpack because students have a privacy right in their personal belongings. On the other hand, school lockers are owned by the school, so the school can search those without having any “reasonable suspicion.” Students can refuse to give consent to be searched.
  • A school may conduct random drug testing only of students who participate in extracurricular activities. A school cannot force a student to take a drug test under other circumstances.
  • Although public schools can enforce dress codes, under federal law, dress codes can’t treat students differently based on their gender, force students to conform to sex stereotypes, or censor particular viewpoints.

The attorneys at Nobles & Yanez have decades of experience defending the rights of students. If you feel your rights have been violated or you are under suspicion because of something that happened at school, call us immediately to set up a free consultation.