Students’ Rights

Teachers and administrators have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for students that is conducive to learning. They also have a responsibility to respect each student’s individual rights.

These two missions are not incompatible. Students have rights too!


In our system, state-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. School officials do not possess absolute authority over their students. Students in school as well as out of school are “persons” under our Constitution.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas, Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)

In spite of the Supreme Court’s ringing endorsement of students’ rights in the landmark Tinker decision, constitutional violations are far too common in public schools across the country.

Common Violations of Students’ Rights

  • Articles about controversial subjects written for student newspapers are censored.
  • Lockers and backpacks are searched without reasonable suspicion.
  • Students of color, students with disabilities or students that are just quirky and different are the target of overly harsh discipline policies.
  • Inappropriate religious practices in the schools are officially sanctioned by teachers and school administrators.
  • Female students are excluded from certain extracurricular activities.
  • LGBTQ students are intimidated into silence.
  • Minority students are disproportionately directed to lower track programs.
  • Internet access to certain Web sites is unreasonably restricted.

Important Handouts

A Note on Military Recruitment in Schools

Since 2001, with the passage of No Child Left Behind, the military has launched an aggressive campaign to recruit students to the ranks of the armed services. If you are aware that recruiters are using heavy-handed tactics to harass students, violate students’ privacy rights, or target poor students and students of color, please contact us here at the ACLU-DE and let us know.

Students and parents have the right to keep their personal information private from the military, not be harassed by aggressive recruiters and to report abuses if they happen. By law, your school must allow you to opt-out and keep your information private from the military. Please let us know if you are having difficulty protecting your private information from military recruiters.