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 11. Civil Rights of Students

Beginning with the first desegregation cases in the 1950’s, federal courts first recognized that students attending public schools were entitled to basic “civil” or “fundamental” rights. Since that time, litigation on behalf of students asserting various rights has increased dramatically to include claims of discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, disability, and gender, as well as claims that school districts have violated various other provisions of the United States Constitution, such as the first and fourth amendments. Congress and the General Assembly have contributed to this expansion of student rights with the enactment of complex statutes covering topics ranging in subject from the rights of disabled students to gender equity in sports programs. This Chapter seeks to outline the various constitutional and statutory rights—both federal and state—to which public school students are entitled and which form a substantial portion of the litigation many boards of education must be prepared to defend.

11. 1 Do students have a right to an education?
11. 2 Do students have the right to participate in extracurricular activities?
11. 3 What rights or protections are available under the law to disabled students?
11. 4 What laws exist prohibiting discrimination against students based on race or national origin and how do they affect school districts?
11. 5 What laws exist prohibiting discrimination against students based on sex and how do these laws impact school districts?
11. 6 How are Title VI, Title IX and Section 504 enforced by the federal government against school districts?
11. 7 Can an employee’s conduct toward a student ever result in a Title IX claim?
11. 8 Can a student’s conduct toward another student ever result in Title IX liability?
11. 9 What officials have the authority to act which may give rise to Title IX sexual harassment liability?
11. 10 Will the same principles be applied to liability under Title VI and § 504?
11. 11 How does Title IX impact extracurricular athletics?
11. 12 Are there state laws which address issues of equity in sports between the genders?
11. 13 What grievance procedures should be in place for students who contend they have been the victims of illegal discrimination or harassment?
11. 14 What rights to free speech do students have in the school environment?
11. 15 What speech may be regulated or controlled by school administrators?
11. 16 Under what circumstances can a student object to a provision in a dress code?
11. 17 Can a school require all students to wear uniforms?
11. 18 Under what circumstances can a student be searched at school?
11. 19 When can a student’s car, locker, or book bag be searched?
11. 20 When is a strip search of a student authorized?
11. 21 When can a school system use drug dogs and what procedures should be followed?
11. 22 When is it appropriate to subject students to drug or alcohol tests?
11. 23 May a local board of education require students to be tested for drugs in order to participate in extracurricular activities?
11. 24 Are school officials required to notify parents and obtain their consent before law enforcement or DFACs personnel interview a child at school?
11. 25 What is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act?
11. 26 What is an educational record under FERPA?
11. 27 Are there any limitations on what constitutes an educational record?
11. 28 What rights do parents have under FERPA?
11. 29 Must parental consent always be obtained prior to disclosure of an educational record or personally identifiable information of a student?
11. 30 Who has the right to control access to a student’s records under FERPA?
11. 31 How long does a district have to produce student records after receiving a request from a parent?
11. 32 Can school districts be sued for disclosing student records in violation of FERPA?
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