Editorial: Freedom of Speech in Schools

November 9, 2018

 

People in America are accustomed to speaking their minds with the expectation that they will not be prosecuted for the words they use. However, when one steps into a school building are they stripped of their rights to free speech? Where does free speech end and school policies begin? You would think the First Amendment would be “in play” wherever one is, but it only applies when in public institutions. This means that you aren’t always protected by the first amendment laws, for example when one enters a private school building they lose their rights to speech. Imagine, every time we enter the City and Country building we no longer have the right to control our own speech.
 
Aside from the obvious interpretations of freedom of speech, there are nonverbal forms of expression such as clothing, writing, body language, and art. Schools limit what students say, wear and what they do and for the most part have the power to control who they grow up to be. Think about the concept of a uniform; a uniforms’ purpose is to make everyone appear the same and since clothing is a form of expression uniforms strip children of a part of who they are. City and Country is different from many schools, it does not require students to wear uniforms and it does not have many limits restricting a  child’s freedom to express. 
Even though C&C complies by the First Amendment children in classrooms may still feel unable to speak. “At times when I have to speak in front of a larger audience I am scared of what people will think because everyone has a different opinion.” said a Nathalie Robayo. During the school day it can be incredibly intimidating. Children, especially as they enter adolescence can become practically consumed by what they think other people think. This can make it extremely difficult to share one’s opinion which ends up making free speech practically useless. In order to have a healthy and functional school environment every student needs to be not only able to speak but also feel comfortable speaking, it is only then  schools be able to educate properly.
 
Another common predicament is in City & Country, as in most of society, is there is a dominant culture which, when it comes to C&C, consists of white, upper class, liberals. When one does not identify with these labels, it can be incredibly difficult to voice their thoughts, views, and experiences. When asked about some her experiences as a student of color, Chase Holness, XIIIs, said, “When people touch my hair it is very annoying because they act as they have never seen a black person before. Also, whenever we talk about racial injustice, I feel like everyone is staring at me which makes me feel really uncomfortable since I am one of the only people of color.” On another note, City and Country students are fortunate because they are provided with opportunities, and they learn in a small safe environment. However, even then students can feel uncomfortable in front of their classmates, and it is everyone's job to ensure students feel safe enough to express who they are.  I believe that in order to have a healthy and functional school environment everyone's opinions need to be shared and be valued, it is only then students will be able to get the most out of their education.

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