I have to share this, since it is excellent: On Bradstreet's Blog, How Children Are Not Perceived As Equally Human
In the U.S. we limit the rights of our children, and seem to be dead set against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In the case of a School setting, we also ask children to leave many of their Constitutional rights at the door:
- Freedom of speech: Children do not have freedom of speech in a school, they may be punished for speaking out of turn, disagreeing with the teacher or administration, even wearing their hair or clothing in a way that is against the rules. What adult would stand for this in a public place? "Sorry sir, only people wearing button-down shirts are allowed in this city park." In addition, children are being told by the Supreme Court that they have no Freedom of Speech, even when off school grounds. Do schools now hold the same powers as the border patrol, who can detain or search anyone no matter how far from the border they are? Does this mean if you run into a teacher at a grocery store, and the teacher notices your clothing that violates the school rules, that you can be punished for that when you return to school?
- Freedom of Assembly: Assembly has been limited by the courts to sharing information or ideas about governance, which is why the mall rules above will probably be allowed, and why teen curfews persist. As a nation, we have taken the position that anyone under the age of 18 does not have the same rights as someone over that age. So if you want to hang out at the mall, or meet in the cafeteria with your fellow students, make it a political rally. Otherwise, the constitution does not protect you.
- Freedom of Religion: Children continue to be denied their religious freedoms. From cases in Alabama where Jewish students are punished and forced to write an essay about "Why Jesus Loves Me" to every Atheist who is pressured to say "Under God" as part of the Pledge of Allegiance, children are asked to check this freedom at the school door. Want a history lesson about the Pledge? We've only had "Under God" since 1954. Read more here.
- Protection against Unreasonable Search and Seizure without a warrant: Guess what? If it is in a child's locker or desk at school, the school can search it. Students are supposed to be notified and can be present when the search happens, but there are exceptions. The Supreme Court has decided that secret searches or searches of all personal effects, including strip searches, are allowed "when there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will turn up evidence that the student has violated or is violating either the law or the rules of school." Think about that the next time you send a child into a school. An enemy might tip off a teacher that your child has a knife or drugs, and the next thing your child can be strip searched, their locker and desk searched and any evidence of rule breaking can result in punishment or turning over evidence to the police. In a school, the administration has more power than the police. Do you think that power is ever abused?
Being a child in this country means someone else decides what rights you get to have. If you attend school, we also assign many of your remaining rights to someone else. We know best, right?