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Essay/Term paper: Student's rights

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Narrative Essays

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Student's Rights

by Q.T.M. McConnell

Are you in the mood for some good reading? The other day I was in the
Guidance Office looking for guidance when I saw an unassuming three page packet.
Having nothing else to do, I picked one up and began reading. I learned that
the name of this little manual is the Student's Rights and Responsibilities Bill.
I thought to myself, "my, what a great place is La Follette, that I can simply
walk into my guidance office and learn my rights as a student. But wait, why
must I pursue this information on my own? Why isn't this information in my
handy handbook issued to me at the beginning of the school year? I ought to
read this!" So I read. Soon I realized why our School Board may not want
students realizing what we are actually entitled to. Right away in the Preamble,
it states "students have the responsibility to respect rights of all persons
involved in the educational process and exercise the highest degree of self-
discipline in observing and adhering to legitimate rules." The first thing I
thought was "WOW! That sounds great! The School Board really trusts me as a
free-thinking individual to respect people and be respected. I love this
school!" But wait. Before we all stage an "I love Cheryl Wilhoyte" love-fest,
let's take a look at what these "legitimate rules" are, particularly as they
apply to freedom of speech, expression, and something they like to call
"material disruption of the educational environment."
The first item on the list is literature, specifically a student's right
to post it. It reads "Students shall have the right to post any literature of a
non-commercial nature without prior censorship or approval by the Administration
or School Board in any designated posting area, provided, however, the
designated representative shall be accorded the right to remove posted material
s/he considers obscene, libelous or will cause material disruption to the
educational environment." Let's stop and think a bit. I have the right to post
whatever I want so long as my Administrators agree with it? Whose rights are we
really talking about here? Well, I began to think and it occurred to me that
maybe my Administrators and School Board representatives aren't so concerned
that I express myself however I like. But, I can see their point; after all, I
probably wouldn't want fifteen hundred students posting whatever they wanted to
either. They might start to see the world outside these walls.
I proceeded reading. The next civil liberties violation I came across
is stated as such: "Students shall have the right to wear buttons. . .and other
symbolic expression provided these expressions are not obscene, libelous, or
cause material disruption of the educational environment." So if I, Joe Student,
am actively pro-life and I want to wear a button with a picture of an aborted
fetus, I can't because someone is offended? Isn't that the point of democracy?
To believe in something no matter what other people say and being able to voice
an opinion? Am I expected to compromise my beliefs because someone doesn't
agree with me? I hope not.
Next on the list of Administrator's--oops, I mean student's--rights is
clothing and conduct. According to our elected school officials, we the
students have "the right to choose (our) own dress, conduct, and personal
appearance, insofar as (it does) not substantially disrupt, pose a clear and
present danger to school operations, present an obscene appearance, or endanger
health." Well, lovely. Perhaps I'm just reading this wrong, but it seems to me
that this bill of rights says that (paraphrased) "students can do what their
administrators deem appropriate." Personally, I'm insulted that the School
Board and our Administrators, the very people that are supposed to be helping us
become intelligent, free-thinking adults, really give themselves the right to
make me change my clothes or remove symbols of my beliefs because it may rub
someone the wrong way.
It's getting to the point where the WASPS downtown who have a very small
idea what the students are really thinking make decisions for us on basic
fundamental things, like our dress and expression of beliefs. Isn't the whole
preamble of this bill saying that they trust us to be responsible to make our
own choices with respect for others? When we arrive, or when any group of
people arrive at a place where a student can't dress himself without fear of
administrational reprimand, things need to change. Where I think we need to be,
whether it's Libertarian or purely Utopian, is at a place where unless I'm
infringing on a person's rights and abilities to live as they desire, as long as
I respect them there's nothing wrong. If Mr. Man (or Woman) sitting in his (or
her) office doesn't like my shirt, DON'T LOOK AT IT! What makes his (or her)
opinion more valid than mine? What our Administrators ought to be doing is not
to restrict rights but to empower individuality, work so a student can post
literature to educate other people without prior consent from anyone. Whether
someone posts literature that I agree with or not, at least I can choose a
position and stand with it. As it is now, most everyone just walks to class,
mutes out the teacher, walks to the next class and so on. If I was to read a
pamphlet in the commons that encourages pot smoking, I may or may not agree with
it, but the information is there for me to see and I can decide whether I want
to smoke pot or not, whereas now, the information isn't even there, so I either
get to find the information myself or remain ignorant. If public education is
supposed to be about anything, shouldn't it be the opportunity for me to learn
what I wish with the support, or at least passive non-support, of my educators?
Now, about that "material disruption" stuff. The generous folks
downtown have bestowed upon me the sacred privilege of wearing what they see as
appropriate, behaving as they see appropriate, and just generally being
appropriate. For example, tee-shirts and other clothing: When I see someone
with a tee-shirt advertising something, I think "Oh, that person likes beer,
that person likes Marilyn Manson, that person likes having no fear and that
person likes his Big Johnson! Great for him!" But not once have I ever thought
"That tee-shirt makes me want to skip school, cause unrest, drink beer with
Marilyn Manson or fearlessly play with my Big Johnson!" You know why? IT'S
ONLY A SHIRT! The same thing applies to hats. If I wear a hat and someone
decides to try to beat me up because of it, isn't there a bigger issue to deal
with than hats? Aren't our elected officials perhaps examining the wrong
problem? I, a partially educated 17-year old, has never thought things like
that, but apparently our college educated Administrators do, or at least think
so little of us that they expect us to. They seem to think that a shirt or a
poster or the way I conduct myself will cause such a furor that the school can't
continue to function. They seem really wrong to me.
Don't get me wrong. I have great respect for our Administrators and I
know that they have very difficult jobs to do. They didn't write the Student's
Bill of Rights, but they do have some room to move under the established rules.
Why not take the whole issue to a vote? Why not have the students decide what
we want and don't want in our school? Isn't that conducive to "Success for All"
and our basic system of Democracy?
Oh, just a few asides: Kudos to Dr.Jenkins for writing a piece for the
last issue of The Lance. Whether you agree with him or not, at least one of our
Administrators took the time to voice his opinion and let the student body know
a little bit about him. Boo hiss to the St. Valentines Day massacres that
happened a few weeks back. I can think of no better way to get the friendly
gun-toting police officers--excuse me,"Educational Resource Officers"-- out of
the halls of La Follette than a few good bare knuckle brawls. I'm also just a
bit curious about the awards convocation (party) last month. Do our grade
principals really know so little about us that they can't pronounce our names


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