School Rules, Student Rights, and a Safe Place to Learn - December 8, 1994

There are moments in every school day when the rules make life more difficult, and we wish there weren't any. But that wish evaporates quickly when we think of trying to survive in a school environment that has no rules. Most rules are followed willingly, because they keep us safe and comfortable. And most of the time we don't think about the rules that protect our property and ourselves from intrusion of others.

So the problem is not whether a school should have rules, or whether students should have any rights. But which rules contribute to our safety and comfort in a democratic society and which are a serious intrusion on our individual rights?

Which rules are the good ones? And, perhaps more importantly, who should decide? Some rules might look very effective from one perspective, but seem unfair from another point of view.

By examining some current rules that have been passed about student conduct, we may better understand how difficult it is to make schools a safe and comfortable place for all students. We may also understand how difficult it is for adults who are responsible for school policy to arrive at a policy that everyone can accept.

This Town Hall Meeting will help you to consider the actions of our elected representatives, and to think about what they might do in the future to help schools and the society become safer, more humane places for all of us. In developing your own point of view, you will want to consider the First Amendment to the Constitution and its protection of individual rights. The other side of school rules is student rights, and sometimes the two sides can be in conflict.