Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 12/12.3.2

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Students Rights and Responsibilities

Learning Targets

1. Identify certain amendments in the United States Constitution that relate to school issues.

2. Identify and learn about different court cases concerning student rights and amendments.

3. Assess and reflect on one's newly acquired knowledge based on this article with a short quiz.


The United States of America prides itself on the ability to grant rights and responsibilities to United States' Citizens. Not many nations in the world have a document like the Constitution. We are lucky to have a well organized system. Within that system there are certain rights and responsibilities that are to be upheld. The Bill of Rights is the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution. These rights correspond to many aspects of life. This article with discuss the how the Bill of Rights and other Amendments are concerned with school issues and students' rights and responsibilities. As well as addressing certain court cases that relate to those amendments.


Here are certain amendments that deal with aspects of students rights and issues dealt with in schools.

First Amendment: "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 (Wikipedia, 2009)."

Fourth Amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized (Wikipedia, 2009 & Hardin, 1996)."

Eighth Amendment: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted (Wikipedia, 2009 & Hardin, 1996)."

Ninth Amendment: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people (Wikipedia, 2009 & Hardin, 1996)."

Fourteenth Amendment: "Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws (Wikipedia, 2009 & Hardin, 1996)."

Supreme Court Cases[edit]

Within each amendment certain elements of it have been brought up in court. Over the years many Supreme Court Cases have addressed many issues of students' rights. Here are some examples that have been taken to court concerning the First and Fourth Amendments.

First Amendment Cases[edit]

The First Amendment has many clauses and elements to it; freedom of religion, of speech, of press, of assembly, and of petition. Below are a couple Supreme Court cases that were decided under the freedoms of the First Amendment.

Establishment of Religion/Free Exercise Clause[edit]

"Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen." (Wikipedia, 2009)

The prayer that was said that was in question in the Engel v. Vitale case.

In this clause it is stated that there will be no established religion in the United States. It presents the commonly known subject of separation of church and state. Everyone will be able to exercise whichever religion they may choose.

A case that questioned whether or not public schools should have prayer in school was the 1962 case, Engel v. Vitale (Hardin, 1996). In this case it was a question of the determination of if it was "unconstitutional for state officials to compose an official school prayer and require its recitation in public schools (Wikipedia, 2009)." The plaintiffs said that the prayer compromised their religious beliefs. The decision said that it was in fact unconstitutional because it violated the Establishment Clause (Wikipedia, 2009). Therefore, it is a student's right to not participate in prayer in school if their religious beliefs do not correspond. But for the most part, prayer in public schooling is pretty extinct.

Freedom of Speech Clause[edit]

This clause addresses many issues with the freedom of speech. By "speech" it means not only vocal speaking but symbolism as well. Freedom of speech means you can express your opinion in everyday speech, the way you dress, your everyday hobbies, and so on.

A case that was landmark that deals with freedom of speech was the 1969 case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (Hardin, 1996). In December 1965, adults and students decided to wear black armbands during the holiday season and were to fast on December 16 and New Year's Eve to demonstrate their opposition to the United States involvement in Vietnam (Tinker v. Des Moines). Des Moines, Iowa principals decided to ban the armbands and would suspend any students who wore them to school. The issue at hand was whether or not the wearing of the black armband as a political protest as a form of freedom of speech was violated when school officials banned them (Tinker v. Des Moines). The decision made said that it was a violation of their freedom of speech because it was a "symbolic act and therefore a form of 'pure speech'"(Tinker v. Desmoines). This precedent is still in effect in today's schools.


All in all, there are many Supreme Court cases that are affiliated with the First Amendment that deal with students' right. Many aspects of the Amendment are protected and students should know their rights.

Fourth Amendment Cases[edit]

The right to privacy is a major right in our nation. No one wants to be spied on or searched at any given time, it would be very invasion. It is second nature to citizen's to protect their belongings. Here is a case that was very big dealing with search and seizure.

Freedom from Unreasonable Search and Seizure Clause[edit]

On school grounds many issues concerning search and seizure come into question. Many students think that, although they are on school grounds, they will not get in trouble if something is found in their possession if they did not give consent for the search. This case proves this reasoning wrong.

In the 1985 case, New Jersey v. T.L.O. the question of under what circumstances can a school official search a student's belongings came into question (Hardin, 1996). A female student (TLO) was caught smoking in the bathroom and was sent to the Vice Principal's office. T.L.O. then proceeded to say that she was not smoking and said she didn't smoke at all. The Vice Principal then searched her purse and found cigarettes and rolling papers (New Jersey v. T.L.O.). After finding this evidence, the Vice Principal then searched the purse more "thoroughly and found some marijuana, a pipe, plastic bags, a fairly substantial amount of money, an index card containing a list of students who owed T.L.O. money, and two letters that implicated her in marijuana dealing" (New Jersey v. T.L.O.). T.L.O. said that her Fourth Amendment rights under unreasonable search and seizure were violated.

Issues: (1) Does the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures apply to searches conducted by school officials? (2) If so how far does that Fourth Amendment protection extend?

Decision: Yes, the Fourth Amendment applies but the protection does not extend very far. The U.S. Supreme Court stated that the standard needed to justify such searches is reasonable suspicion, not probable cause. Reasonable suspicion was defined by the Court as reasonable suspicion that a search will reveal evidence that the student violated the law or school rules. (New Jersey v. T.L.O.)


It is evident that there are rights to privacy for students, but they do not extend too far. It is important for students and teachers to know these rights because they need to know if they are being violated or violating.

Other Cases[edit]

I have just offered a little insight to the array of cases that address school issues and students' rights. Here is a link to an article that offers many other case studies to research and read.


After researching and reading the rules and regulations I am very much more aware of students' rights in the United States. I believe all of the rights presented are very reasonable and appropriate. It is good to see how our United States Constitution is flexible in its meanings and meets issues regarding the schools and its students. I hope that you are more informed and see how the Bill of Rights and other Amendments correspond to the rights of students. It is very important for future teachers to know the rights of students, so that they will never violate them.


1) How many Amendments correspond specifically to issues dealt with in school and students' rights?

  • a) Five
  • b) Four
  • c) Ten
  • d) Two

2) If students want to wear yellow pants to represent a political movement and a principal bans the wearing of yellow pants, what amendment and clause does that violate?

  • a) Eighth Amendment: Due Process Rights
  • b) First Amendment: Establishment of Religion Clause
  • c) First Amendment: Freedom of Speech Clause
  • d) Fourth Amendment: Unreasonable Search and Seizure Clause

3) Which situation falls under the First Amendment: Freedom of Religion?

  • a) Choosing not to pray if a time is allotted for prayer
  • b) Not participating in the Pledge of Allegiance because it says "Under God"
  • c) Wearing a head dress that follows a student's religion
  • d) All of the above

4) Which case involved a student and a school official regarding search and seizure policies?

  • a) Engel v. Vitale (1962)
  • b) New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985)
  • c) Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)
  • d) Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)


1. Hardin, Julia. (1996). “The Constitutional Rights and Responsibilities of Students and Teachers.” Retrieved February 22, 2009, from

2. Library of Congress: American Memory. "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875." Image 97 and 98. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from

3. “New Jersey v. T.L.O.” Retrieved February 22, 2009, from

4. “Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District.” Retrieved February 22, 2009, from

5. Herbeck, Dale A. and Thomas L. Tedford, (2005). "Tinker et al. v. Des Moines Independent Community School District et al." Retrieved February 22, 2009, from

6. Wikipedia. Last modified: (2009). “First Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Retrieved February 23, 2009, from

7. Wikipedia. Last modified: (2009). “Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Retrieved February 22, 2009, from

8. Wikipedia. Last modified: (2009). “Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Retrieved February 22, 2009, from

9. Wikipedia. Last modified: (2009). “Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Retrieved February 22, 2009, from

10. Wikipedia. Last modified: (2009). “Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Retrieved February 22, 2009, from

11. Wikipedia. Last modified: (2009). “Engel v. Vitale.” Retrieved February 22, 2009, from


1. a) Five

2. c) First Amendment: Freedom of Speech Clause

3. d) All of the above

4. b) New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985)