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Ten Commonly Asked Questions on Student Rights

  1. Does a student have the right to express his/her opinions and beliefs in school?

  2. Yes. A student can express his/her opinions orally and in writing. A student must, however, make sure that in expressing this opinion or belief that he/she does so in a way that does not disrupt classes or other school activities. In addition, the student should not use vulgar language.

  3. Can a school have a dress code?

  4. This depends on the state. Many states allow dress codes unless they are unreasonable or discriminatory.

  5. Does a student have to say the Pledge of Allegiance?

  6. No. A student has the right to remain silent and seated during the pledge.

  7. Can the school start the day or an activity with a prayer?

  8. No. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits government from promoting religion. Prayers in school or at a school activity violate this clause.

  9. Can a female student be kicked out of school if she is pregnant?

  10. No. Schools are prohibited from discriminating against pregnant or married students. A school may offer special classes for pregnant students. The student is not required to attend these classes if she would prefer to be in her regular classes.

  11. Can the principal or a teacher search a student's locker or handbag?

  12. Yes. Students have fewer privacy rights in school than out of school.

  13. Can a school have metal detectors?

  14. Metal detectors are allowed in many states. Courts have ruled that a metal detector is less of an invasion of privacy than other kinds of searches. Metal detectors cannot be used selectively, i.e., on a certain group of students and not others.

  15. Can a school have a tracking system?

  16. Yes. Tracking systems are all right if the students are separated on the basis of learning ability and not on a racial, ethnic, or gender basis. Moreover, any tracking system used by a school system must ensure that all students are given the same basic education.

  17. Can a student who doesn't speak English attend a public school?

  18. Yes. Teaching is the function of any public school. The school can teach the student English and provide him/her with a good education in other subjects while learning English.

  19. Can a public school teach religion?

  20. No. A public school as part of the curriculum cannot promote religious beliefs or practices. A public school can, however, teach about the influences of religion in history or literature.

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