Student civil liberties explained

Civil liberties are defined as freedoms that the government cannot take away as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
That, however, is not the case for students.
To illustrate, senior Jasmine Lee explains this difference of student freedoms from an AP Government student’s perspective.
“The actual legal aspect is that [students] do not have as many civil liberties [as adults] because the school acts as our parent. We do not have as many civil liberties as a normal adult because we are in school and administrators are trying to maintain order,” Lee said.
Furthermore, social studies teacher Tony Batinovich elaborates on the civil liberties guaranteed to students.
“I would say you still have [civil liberties] but they can be modified when we are at school. School is supposed to be here, philosophically, for education and if things can get in the way of allowing people to get that education we might limit some of your civil liberties here that you might still have out on the street,” Batinovich said.
Batinovich also gives an example of why student’s civil liberties can be limited in school.
“We have a dress code and we are allowed to have a dress code because clothing cannot be disruptive. That is the catch phrase: disruptive to the educational process,” Batinovich said. “If you came to school dressed like you would want to be dressed if you were going dancing or hanging out at Lake Tapps, that potentially could be disruptive to the educational process, so the school can limit that type of thing. Because dress code is the limiting of free speech and school is given a little bit more flexibility to limit free speech because we are in the school business.”
On the topic of free speech, Principal Eric Fredericks assures that although the Pledge of Allegiance is not explicitly presented each day, the opportunity is still there.
“We still have the time to say the Pledge of Allegiance [but] we do not have the video production program anymore and that was the means by which students had the opportunity to say the Pledge. Now we are down to once a week [announcements],” Fredericks said. “It was not a conscious choice to stop [daily saying the Pledge] it is just the means by which we have done it in the past is no longer available to us.”
Social studies teacher Tony Batinovich explains the significance behind this year’s absence of the daily Pledge of Allegiance.
“There is a RCW [Revised Codes of Washington] which is a law of the state of Washington. According to the way I read it, [public schools] are supposed to start each day saying the Pledge of Allegiance,” Batinovich said.
Additionally, Batinovich voices his concern for the repercussions the school could face for not complying with this RCW.
“I tried to dig deeper to find out the consequence of breaking this law [about not saying the Pledge of Allegiance] because normally with a law there is a consequence if you do not follow it and I could not find the consequence for that. But there has to be something or why make it a law? You would assume that someone would be punished if they are not following it, fined or something. It is not like your principal is going to be hauled off in handcuffs or something but I could not find [the consequence],” Batinovich said.
However, Kristin Hennessey from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) clarifies that there is in fact no consequence for a school that does not provide the opportunity to say the Pledge of Allegiance each day.
“Because the right not to recite the Pledge flows in part from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, school districts and individual employees that impose punishment on non-participating students may be sued under a federal law that prohibits state employees from infringing on federal constitutional rights, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. If liable, the defendants could face an injunction and pay damages, costs and attorney’s fees,” Hennessey said.
Senior Sierra Allen considers the required recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance a violation of one’s civil liberties.
“I think it is a person’s choice if they want to say it or not. I do not think [school administrators] should be able to force people to say anything,” Allen said. “I know a lot of people who do not want their allegiance to this country, they are just here because they have to be and they should not be saying something to an inanimate object if they do not want to.”
Executive director at the Student Press Law Center, Frank D. LoMonte adds that schools seem to respect a student’s First Amendment rights in regard to the Pledge.
“Schools seem to understand this concept pretty well and, for the most part, they have provided an opportunity to opt out from participation in the Pledge. If the school is actually ‘assigning’ students to lead the Pledge in a way that does not provide an opportunity to opt out, then the school is violating the First Amendment,” LoMonte said.
Not only are student’s rights to free speech modified at school but their Fourth Amendment rights involving search and seizure are also altered inside of school.
One issue that falls under the search and seizure rights is the administrator’s ability to search student’s cars without first obtaining a warrant.
Senior Rylee Goodwin shares her opinion on the topic of car searches.
“I think it is wrong to a point. If they have a suspicion then it is OK but random searches are wrong,” Goodwin said.
Batinovich later explains the circumstances required for the search of student property.
“School officials are allowed to search students’ things if there is reasonable suspicion that they have something that is illegal to have on campus. [Administrators] are not allowed to just randomly search everybody just to look for something in order to penalize students,” Batinovich said. “If they have reasonable suspicion they can ask to look inside stuff. It is kind of [uncertain] with cars because the car is partially private but you have to realize you are parking on school grounds and it is school property. So you probably have to comply by that too.”
Security guard Greg Royal explains the procedure they follow when a student refuses a request to search his or her property.
“They are emergency expelled. They have the right to refuse [a search] but for safety reasons, they have to be removed from the school. It is the circumstances involved: [the expectations administrators have on students] and why the search is being conducted [that matters the most],” Royal said. “If it is something far more dangerous [than a cigarette], law enforcement might be called and they will make the determination if they are going to detain the student and get a search warrant. It is all based on the circumstances.”
Senior Matthew Molina also shares his opinion on this issue.
“I am fine with it,” Molina said. “If you have nothing to hide, then you should have nothing to worry about.”
Although some students may find the limiting of their civil liberties to be unjust, Batinovich assures that everything the school district does is for the higher good.
“I would just like to make sure that students understand that you still have your civil liberties when you come to school but they may not be exactly the same when you are outside of school. And all that is considered to be OK because of the higher purpose of making this an extremely safe place for everyone,” Batinovich said.