The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire believes that schools are not constitutional dead zones. How can we expect today’s students to grow up to be tomorrow’s civic leaders if we do not respect these fundamental national values in our schools? Education is the foundation for civic participation and schools are formative in shaping how children and young people view themselves and others. Accordingly, it is essential that school environments foster safe spaces in which ALL students can learn.
ACLU-NH is committed to advocating for and protecting students’ rights in a variety of areas, as well as empowering students to be their own advocates.
Free Speech and Privacy
Today, the growing concern about drugs and violence in schools often trumps students’ privacy rights. Federal courts have found that students’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures do not always apply in a public school setting. ACLU-NH fights for students' privacy, challenging unreasonable strip-searches, electronic monitoring, and searches and seizures of property such as cell phones.
Other policies and practices we fight against that infringe on students’ privacy and free speech rights, include:
- Disciplining students for speech critical of teachers and administrators.
- Requiring students to surrender their social media passwords.
- Excessive filtering of online content viewable at schools. For example, our “Don’t Filter Me!” project to remove school Internet filters that block hundreds of LGBT websites.
Schools collect a wealth of information on students. Some of this—such as grades, discipline problems, and household income—makes sense for educators to collect and can be vital to the protection of civil rights. Conversely, other information—such as pregnancy, mental health, victimization, and criminal histories—is excessive.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth shouldn’t have to fear going to school. We fight to protect the right of trans and gender nonconforming students to be treated with respect. Young people should have the freedom to be open (or not) about their identity and beliefs in schools, at college, in government facilities, and in public. The ACLU LGBT Project helps protect young people's right to express themselves, start gay-straight alliance clubs, have their gender identity respected, and be taught in a safe environment.
Part of our Know Your Rights campaign is designed specifically to equip LGBT+ students with the knowledge necessary to advocate for their rights in school.
Since the enactment of Title IX in 1972, federal law has guaranteed the right to education free from sex discrimination. While there have been great strides toward achieving equality, serious obstacles remain which disproportionately impact women and young girls in schools. These include: sex-segregated education programs; lack of supportive services for and discrimination against pregnant and parenting students; and the trivialization of gender-based violence and harassment. For further reading, click here.
Since 2008, states across the country have passed measures to make it harder for students, among other Americans, to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. These measures include cuts to early voting, voter ID laws, and purges of voter rolls.