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What gives me the right?

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What gives me the right?

AVID teacher, Matthew Curtis, hands the “Parent-Pupil Rights and Responsibilities Handbook” to a sophomore student.

AVID teacher, Matthew Curtis, hands the “Parent-Pupil Rights and Responsibilities Handbook” to a sophomore student.

Alexandra Quinones

AVID teacher, Matthew Curtis, hands the “Parent-Pupil Rights and Responsibilities Handbook” to a sophomore student.

Alexandra Quinones

Alexandra Quinones

AVID teacher, Matthew Curtis, hands the “Parent-Pupil Rights and Responsibilities Handbook” to a sophomore student.

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If the school principal comes up to a student and demands for that student’s backpack to be searched can said student say no? This question, among others, arises when students and teachers are faced with situations in school where they are not sure if their constitutional rights can protect them.

California has established several education codes that help both school staff and students receive a better understanding about what their separate roles are. Among these codes is Education Code 49050 which does not allow school officials to search your person and according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California students have the right to refuse to be searched. However, under certain circumstances, the school can still search you without your consent. Rafael Ramos, the US History teacher, said, “[Students] they’re children but ultimately they’re human and their rights should not be ignored.”

California education codes also serve the purpose of keeping students and staff safe. For example, an obvious rule necessary for student and staff safety is the principal’s ability to expel someone based on whether the student has committed acts described in Education Code 48915 and other mentioned sections. Principal Voight said, “Suspension doesn’t work in my opinion, I’ve suspended many students and it doesn’t help [the] student. It [suspension] didn’t improve behavior, the only thing that works is creating a relationship.”

Attending classes is important for a student to learn, but that student’s health is just as important. Therefore, another code in relation to a student’s absence, health and privacy is found in Education Code 46010.1 which dictates that school districts need to notify students and parents that students may be absent from class to receive confidential medical services not approved by parents, such as a pregnancy test, with a limitation as to what those services may be highlighted by a bill analysis done in 2013. Santa Ana School District notifies students about rights likes these through their “Parent-Pupil Rights and Responsibilities Handbook” which every student receives and signs along with their parent. Ramos said, “There might be a situation [where]  the student is making a better choice for themselves [so] I would want that child to have that choice [to receive medical services].”

While it is true that students do not exercise their full constitutional rights, they still have rights that are protected. Ramos said it best, “I think that rights, people’s rights, is something that is important for us as a country. We should value all rights and that includes student rights.”

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What gives me the right?