The new school year is here! Young people not only learn about their constitutional rights in school, but they also see firsthand how those rights may be affected by the actions of school officials and others.

The ACLU of Utah is dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of students and to helping students understand their rights in the school environment.

Schools must balance the need to provide a safe and orderly environment against students’ rights to privacy, free speech, and religion. As a result, students have fewer rights in school than outside of school. But students do not leave all their rights at the schoolhouse doors. Over the years, the courts have defined which limits on student rights are constitutional and which are not. The law constantly changes, but in light of growing concerns about violence, gangs, and drugs in schools, the trend has been towards upholding more limits on student rights. Meanwhile, some rights remain strong, such as following due process in carrying out severe punishments.

While many unresolved issues muddy the legal landscape, the ACLU of Utah’s mission is clear: we are working vigorously to defend and extend the rights and protections of students in Utah.

To understand a school’s policies and procedures to protect you or your student’s rights in Utah’s public schools, the first place to start is reading the school’s policy guide or student handbook. If you do not have one already, you can get a copy from your school’s office or website, or you can request one from the district.

If parents or students believe a student’s rights have been violated, they should address the issue with the school administration. If the issue is not resolved,  please file a complaint with us so that we may review the situation.

Our online resource “Students! Know Your Rights: A Guide For Utah Public High School Students” contains excellent information about:

  • The right to an education
  • Freedom of speech & expression
  • Religious freedom
  • Search and seizure of property on campus
  • Religious, racial, sexual orientation and gender discrimination
  • School discipline
  • Student records & privacy

This resource can help answer questions like: Do your school’s policies discriminate against students? Are students are allowed to form LGBTQ related clubs at their public school? Can they bring a same-sex date to a school dance? If you feel that a child’s rights are being trampled by a school, let us know!

This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >>