Student\'s Rights

by Q.T.M. McConnell

Are you in the mood for some good reading? The other day I was in the
Guidance Office looking for guidance when I saw an unassuming three page packet.
Having nothing else to do, I picked one up and began reading. I learned that
the name of this little manual is the Student\'s Rights and Responsibilities Bill.
I thought to myself, "my, what a great place is La Follette, that I can simply
walk into my guidance office and learn my rights as a student. But wait, why
must I pursue this information on my own? Why isn\'t this information in my
handy handbook issued to me at the beginning of the school year? I ought to
read this!" So I read. Soon I realized why our School Board may not want
students realizing what we are actually entitled to. Right away in the Preamble,
it states "students have the responsibility to respect rights of all persons
involved in the educational process and exercise the highest degree of self-
discipline in observing and adhering to legitimate rules." The first thing I
thought was "WOW! That sounds great! The School Board really trusts me as a
free-thinking individual to respect people and be respected. I love this
school!" But wait. Before we all stage an "I love Cheryl Wilhoyte" love-fest,
let\'s take a look at what these "legitimate rules" are, particularly as they
apply to freedom of speech, expression, and something they like to call
"material disruption of the educational environment."
The first item on the list is literature, specifically a student\'s right
to post it. It reads "Students shall have the right to post any literature of a
non-commercial nature without prior censorship or approval by the Administration
or School Board in any designated posting area, provided, however, the
designated representative shall be accorded the right to remove posted material
s/he considers obscene, libelous or will cause material disruption to the
educational environment." Let\'s stop and think a bit. I have the right to post
whatever I want so long as my Administrators agree with it? Whose rights are we
really talking about here? Well, I began to think and it occurred to me that
maybe my Administrators and School Board representatives aren\'t so concerned
that I express myself however I like. But, I can see their point; after all, I
probably wouldn\'t want fifteen hundred students posting whatever they wanted to
either. They might start to see the world outside these walls.
I proceeded reading. The next civil liberties violation I came across
is stated as such: "Students shall have the right to wear buttons. . .and other
symbolic expression provided these expressions are not obscene, libelous, or
cause material disruption of the educational environment." So if I, Joe Student,
am actively pro-life and I want to wear a button with a picture of an aborted
fetus, I can\'t because someone is offended? Isn\'t that the point of democracy?
To believe in something no matter what other people say and being able to voice
an opinion? Am I expected to compromise my beliefs because someone doesn\'t
agree with me? I hope not.
Next on the list of Administrator\'s--oops, I mean student\'s--rights is
clothing and conduct. According to our elected school officials, we the
students have "the right to choose (our) own dress, conduct, and personal
appearance, insofar as (it does) not substantially disrupt, pose a clear and
present danger to school operations, present an obscene appearance, or endanger
health." Well, lovely. Perhaps I\'m just reading this wrong, but it seems to me
that this bill of rights says that (paraphrased) "students can do what their
administrators deem appropriate." Personally, I\'m insulted that the School
Board and our Administrators, the very people that are supposed to be helping us
become intelligent, free-thinking adults, really give themselves the right to
make me change my clothes or remove symbols of my beliefs because it may rub
someone the wrong way.
It\'s getting to the point where the WASPS downtown who have a very small
idea what the students are really thinking make decisions for us on basic
fundamental things, like our dress and expression of beliefs. Isn\'t the whole
preamble of this bill saying that they trust us to be responsible to make our
own choices with respect for others? When we arrive, or when any group of
people arrive at a place where a student can\'t dress himself without fear of
administrational reprimand, things need to change. Where I think we need to be,
whether it\'s Libertarian or purely Utopian, is