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The Sanders Firm, P.C.: The First Amendment and the Schools

Regarding the rights afforded by the First Amendment, The Sanders Firm, P.C. has worked with clients in public and private schools as well as universities and colleges in the New York City area. First Amendment principles apply to all schools, as they are a part of our government or receive federal aid in various forms. Thus various rights associated with the First Amendment apply in principle to schools.

The First Amendment

In the First Amendment, we find freedom of speech, the press, the right to assemble peacefully, and the freedom to petition the government in order to redress grievances. Additionally, the amendment contains freedom of religion. In essence, schools being a representative of the government, recognize these rights in the same manner that the federal government does.

Thus, a school cannot impose a religion on its students and it allows freedom of expressions, the right to assemble and the freedom to petition the governing body. It’s true that in some instances, such as speech, there may be some restrictions, but overall these civil rights are recognized by the educational institutions.

Violation of Student Rights

Student rights become an issue at various times in school setting. As an example, a student may elect to not say the Pledge of Allegiance, which would be an exercise of freedom of speech or perhaps even religion, since it contains the phrase ‘under God.” Freedom of speech has extended to students being able to wear T-shirts, which some may find offensive, the playing of music, and the expression of controversial political views. School newspapers, radio programming and television programs are all protected by freedom of the press.

However, schools often have restrictions regarding these freedoms, partly to ensure there is a certain amount of order and also due to the fact that in primary and secondary settings students are for the most part still minors. On college campuses there’s more free-reign although controls are often in place. At most colleges, as it is in our society, as long as students use their freedoms without impinging on the freedoms and rights of others they are permitted to utilize the various rights related to expression and freedom of religion.

Violations of Civil Rights

There are two general ways in which a student’s civil rights may be violated in a school setting. The administration or an instructor may violate them or another student or students may do so. Student’s rights a granted by the First Amendment is important for a few reasons.

First, students are working in an environment that is reflective of the one they will inhabit when they are part of the workplace. Second, fostering expression and a respect for rights is an aspect of active learning that can last a lifetime. Thus, if a student’s civil rights are compromised in some addressing the situation is important for all parties, especially for that student.

Understanding Your Rights

If you believe your civil rights have been violated in a school setting, contact The Sanders Firm, P.C. to speak with a lawyer. Remember, it is important that students and their parents or guardians have an understanding of the First Amendment and a student’s civil rights in relationship to the freedoms it protects. If you have concerns regarding those rights or your situation contact us with your questions; we are your voice for justice.