In the landmark Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines,
Justice Fortas wrote, "It can hardly be argued that either students or
teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or
expression at the schoolhouse gate . . . " This quotation is often used,
but what does it mean? Do students have the same rights as adults?
If you think about it for a few minutes, you will realize that
children don't have all of the same rights as adults. For instance,
adults can drive cars, vote, and drink alcohol. Children can't do these
things until they are 16, 18, and 21, depending on where they live. All
of those rights involve situations outside of school. What about inside a
school? In this activity, you'll examine some of the cases in which the
Supreme Court of the United States has held that rights of students
inside a school are not the same as rights of adults outside of school.
The left-hand column contains a list of general rights. Read that list.
In the column labeled "Adult Rights," list the basic rights that adults have in each general area.
From the column labeled "Student Rights" click on the link and
read the abstract. Note the rights that the Supreme Court of the United
States accorded to students. Write these down.
Compare what you have written in the "Adult" column with what
you have written in the "Student" column. In the final column, explain
how adults' rights and students' rights differ in that particular area.
Questions to Consider
The Supreme Court of the United States has made decisions that give
students fewer rights than adults would have in other settings. How do
you think the Court justifies doing so?
In a nonschool setting, are children's' rights restricted in the same
way that they are in a school setting? Why do you think this is the
In your opinion, should students and adults have the same rights? Why or why not?