Schools have a responsibility to provide a safe learning environment. They also have a responsibility to respect students’ constitutional rights to privacy, free speech, and religion. See our Students Take Action! page for ways to make a difference at school or on campus.
What's Happening in Ohio
The rights of teenagers are complex and can often be difficult to understand. To help navigate teen and student rights, you can request a speaker to discuss these topics with your class or youth program, extracurricular or community group, or others who need to know about youth rights. In addition to providing speakers, we also have a variety of readily accessible resources.
The Know Your Rights: Teens & Students PowerPoint presentation contains 30 slides! You can print handouts of the PowerPoint slides so audience members can follow along and take notes. The presentation overviews interactions with police, students’ rights when in school, and teen health and the law. We also compiled a speaker outline and Frequently Asked Questions which provides more information related to youth rights and can assist individuals to lead an informed discussion. You can expect this program to run about 60 minutes including the presentation, questions and discussion.
Want to learn more about teen health and the law? Check out Your Health and the Law: A Guide for Teens.
Students have a right to free speech, just like everyone else. In some cases, students have been suspended because of social media posts or because they conducted voter registration drives at a football game. Teachers, parents and administrators should encourage student civic engagement rather than stifle it.
Denying a student the opportunity to play a sport based on their sex is unlawful.
Title IX specifically states, “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
This means if a girl wants to play a sport at her public school, she must be given the same opportunity as a boy. If the school does not offer a female team for a particular sport, girls must be allowed to try out for the boys’ team.
The ACLU of Ohio recently stepped in to help Makhaela Jenkins, a middle school student who was told she could not play football because she was a girl. Soon after, the school reversed their decision and allowed Makhaela to join her teammates on the field.
Girls showing interest in contact sports is nothing new. In 1974, an Ohio little league football team was forced to accept a twelve year old girl who wanted to play. Today, girls across the state of Ohio play football, join the wrestling team and play rugby.
Boy or girl, the ACLU of Ohio encourages all students to participate in whatever sport they desire.
UPDATED: On December 17, 2014, an important loophole was closed. Regulations holding charter schools accountable for the use of seclusion and restraints were amended to HB 178 and passed unanimously out of the Ohio House. The passage of this legislation extends seclusion and/or restraint provisions of rule 3301-35-15 to public charter schools. Now, all of Ohio’s public school children will now have the same protections.
For years, Ohio schoolchildren — many of them with disabilities — have been routinely isolated in cell-like seclusion rooms or physically restrained by educators with little or no oversight from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).
On April 9, 2013 the State Board of Education finally passed rule 3301-35-15, governing the use of seclusion and restraints practices in Ohio schools. This rule is an important step for the many Ohio schools that secluded and restrained children without guidelines for years and adds extra protections like parental notification and oversight when a child is secluded or restrained.
Currently, the new rule only applies to traditional public schools and not public charter schools, leaving over 115,000 Ohio school children unprotected. However, Ohio Senate Bill 266 has been just been introduced that would require public charter schools to comply with the ODE’s policies and standards for limiting the use of physical restraint and seclusion on students.
The ACLU of Ohio will continue working to ensure that all of Ohio’s public school children are given the same opportunities and protections.
We will keep you posted on opportunities to take action.
Years of zero-tolerance polices have proven to be ineffective, unfair, and excessive and the federal government has finally taken notice. Acknowledging that discrimination in school discipline is a problem, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice recently issued guidance to schools on the administration of discipline in a non-discriminatory manner.
The Ohio legislature is also examining zero-tolerance policies and taking a much-needed look at school discipline practices. According to the Ohio Department of Education, over 210,000 students received out-of-school suspensions during the 2012-2013 school. Approximately 53,000 students were suspended for fighting, while 131,615 were suspended for disobedient or disruptive behavior.
Ohio Senate Bill 167 would eliminate zero-tolerance school policies for violent, disruptive, or inappropriate student behavior, including excessive truancy, and prohibits the adoption of such policies in the future. Instead, it requires each school district to create its own multi-factored policy to deal with incidents on a case-by-case basis. It also requires school boards to create alternative strategies for handling bullying and harassment, as well as other student behavioral issues.
The ACLU of Ohio is committed to challenging zero tolerance policies that push children out of schools and into the justice system.
Read our testimony on S.B. 167
Read our blog post on the failure of zero tolerance in schools.
Your vote matters, so make it heard. Our blog post, Books and Ballots, provides essential information for student voters.
Legislation in the past has been proposed that would require voters to present Ohio licenses, which would pose difficulty for students who are from outside the state. Follow the ACLU of Ohio’s work to educate students about their voting rights, as well as the litigation we have pursued to maintain student voting. Learn how to register and ensure your ballot is counted.
A publication of the ACLU of Ohio Foundation
This handbook outlines your rights as a public school student. Schools must balance the need to provide a safe and orderly environment against a student’s rights to privacy, free speech, and religion. As a student, you have the power to make change. Student activists all over the country have been successful in challenging school policies or actions that violate the Constitution.
Use this guide in conjunction with your school’s handbook. Talk with your parents, teachers or other school officials if you think someone’s rights have been violated.
Click here to read or download the guide.
Contents include information on:
- Freedom of Speech and Expression
- Religious Freedom
- Search and Seizure
- Student Records
- Military Recruitment
Click here to read or download the guide.