Tinker, Ingraham, Kent—all names you may recognize from court cases in which student rights were questioned and taken to the Supreme Court. We, as students, have rights just like any other adult or citizen. It is our responsibility to know what they are and where they apply.
Regardless of whether you intend to follow the rules or to break them, you need to know what they are. When Piedmont Police Chief Rikki Goede came to campus, she told us about how limited our rights are on school grounds and beyond. Our initial reaction was one of unease. Knowing that we can be held accountable for anything we do, say or post, on or off school campus, is uncomfortable. We understand that these laws are in place for our protection and safety, but despite this recognition, limitations still feel like a burden. However, this weight of responsibility is minor compared to the weight of ignorance.
Not only does being well-informed about our rights keep us aware of what activities may get us in trouble, but it also gives us the opportunity to stand up for rights that are being dismissed or violated. We were given rights to ensure freedom and just treatment, and we legally do not need to tolerate infringement of our rights. If we remain comfortably ignorant about the small text in our planner or laws, we relinquish all power to defend ourselves.
Another power that unawareness strips us of is eliciting change. We should take advantage of the fact that here in California, we have more rights than the average American. California students are known and envied for tending to have more rights than students in other states. For example, as student-journalists, the California Student Free Expression Law protects us from censorship by the administration or outside influences.
Although our private voice is rather diminutive on school grounds, we can utilize our public voice to request change or fight for a cause. As the newly elected ASB class takes the helm, we are granted a fresh opportunity to shape our school to our own vision. Often we sit by complacently when school matters are discussed, only to later complain. Instead, now is the time to review the ASB constitution (yes, we actually have one) or flip through the folded, half-torn pages of the student handbook in our planner. By doing so we can work with ASB and the administration to help strengthen the student voice with the power of the rights we already have. Rather than staying in the dark and never really knowing what we can legally say or do, we should appreciate the rights we do have and fight for those we should. And the first step is to know what those rights are.