Students Bill of Rights

I came across this brochure in a public library during my trip to London last week.

I really like the empowering message it communicates to children:

1. You have the right to be heard.
2. You have the right to express yourself.
3. You are important and adults need to remember this.

It got me to thinking, what would a K-12 public school student’s Bill of Rights look like?

I did a bit of research and found very little in this area. What is there generally centers around students’ Constitutional rights to free speech:

Stand Up! ACLU Web Site

Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution

I found a different perspective brought forward from the Education Research Group

Here is another interesting perspective from Engines for Education:

The Student Bill of Rights


1. Testing : No student should have to take a multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blank test.

2. Real-Life Skills: No student should be have to learn something that fails to relate to a skill that is likely to be required in life after school.

3. Memorization: No student should be required to memorize any information that is likely to be forgotten in six months.

4. Clarity of Goals: No student should be required to take a course, the results of which are not directly related to a goal held by the student, nor to engage in an activity without knowing what he can expect to gain from that activity.

5. Passivity: No student should be required to spend time passively watching or listening to anything unless there is a longer period of time devoted to allowing the student to participate in a corresponding active activity.

6. Arbitrary Standards: No student should be required to prepare his work in ways that are arbitrary or to jump through arbitrary hoops defined only by a particular teacher and not by the society at large.

7. Mastery: No student should be required to continue to study something he has already mastered.

8. Discovery: No student should be asked to learn anything unless there is the possibility of his being able to experiment in school with what he has learned.

9. Defined Curriculum: No student should be barred from engaging in activities that interest him within the framework of school because of breadth requirements imposed by the curriculum.

10. Freedom Of Thought: No student should be placed in a position of having to air his views on a subject if the opposing point of view is not presented and equally represented.

 

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I wonder:

Does every student have the right to a teacher that is certified in his/her subject area?

Does every student have the right to a basic learning environment such as a desk and chair?

Does this extend to a computer and access to the Internet?

What about student safety in school, as well as traveling to and from school?

 

We have a Patients’ Bill of Rights, a Consumers’ Bill of Rights, and an Airline Travelers’ Bill of Rights; but who speaks for our students? For those of us that advocate K-12 public school transformation, isn’t a Bill of Rights an important step?

So, what would you include in a Student’s Bill of Rights?

pete

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6 thoughts on “Students Bill of Rights

  1. I would include;
    * students have the right to make mistakes, experience frustrations and have the time and encouragement to push through these to success
    * students have the right to a safe, aesthetically pleasing school
    * students have the right to having laughter as part of their class life
    * students have the right to expecting to be accepted for who they are – diversity, difference, quirks …. EMBRACE THEM!

    Does that sound like pie in the sky???? Computers are good …. acceptance is better!

  2. My first reaction is along the same lines as Jody’s – computers are nice, but a “Bill of Rights” brings to mind more personal requirements for me.

    I want every child to be supported in achieving their personal best.

    * Students shall be treated with respect. Children have worth just because they were born – they don’t have to earn it!
    * Students have the right to be taught in the ways that they learn. They should not have to distort themselves to meet our expectations.
    * Students shall be applauded for their strengths and supported in their weaknesses.
    * Students have the right to feel emotionally and physically safe at school – so that they are comfortable taking the risks necessary to learn.
    * Students have the right to be engaged in their own learning, to follow their passions, to be exposed to passionate life-long learners.

    You know, it occurs to me that I want these same things for the teachers in our schools!

    Back to the infrastructure questions that Pete raised – it’s budget time in our Districts and I was just involved in a prioritization exercise at my childrens’ school. When thinking about how we would want budget cuts made (enrollment is declining, so cuts are inevitable…) – it finally came down to “if we have to, we would rather the field were overgrown with weeds & the school went another year without a fresh coat of paint – but we have to have enough teachers.”

    What are the really foundational things that you couldn’t teach without? Perhaps you could forgo a lot of other things if the kids had access to a computer. The OLPC project obviously feels that way. Give a child a computer and you’ve given them a window on the world!

    From that, I have to add one more item for our Bill of Rights:
    * Students shall have caring teachers and mentors to guide their learning.

    There are a lot of things that you can’t learn alone because you don’t know what you don’t know…
    It takes interaction to learn to get along with other people, to see other viewpoints, to consider alternatives. Interaction stretches your world.

    Pete – thanks for the thought provoking post!

  3. Jody and Heidi,
    So, let’s try to roll these up into categories to help us organize ourselves a bit:

    Relationships: Students have a right to be treated with basic human respect, as members of a class, and as individuals.
    ** Students shall be treated with respect. Children have worth just because they were born – they don’t have to earn it!

    ___________________________________________

    Pedagogy: Children have a right to learn in environments and with pedagogies that take into account their unique learning styles.
    ** Students have the right to be taught in the ways that they learn. They should not have to distort themselves to meet our expectations.
    ** Students have the right to be engaged in their own learning, to follow their passions, to be exposed to passionate life-long learners.
    _____________________________________________

    Content: Children have a right to learn in environments that not only honor the curriculum; but that help children explore themselves, their unique gifts, and what it means to be a learner.
    **students have the right to make mistakes, experience frustrations and have the time and encouragement to push through these to success
    ** students have the right to having laughter as part of their class life
    * *students have the right to expecting to be accepted for who they are – diversity, difference, quirks …. EMBRACE THEM!
    ** Students shall be applauded for their strengths and supported in their weaknesses.
    ___________________________________________

    Physical Infrastructure: Children have a right to learning environments that are safe and conducive to learning.
    **students have the right to a safe, aesthetically pleasing school
    **Students have the right to feel emotionally and physically safe at school – so that they are comfortable taking the risks necessary to learn.
    ____________________________________________

    Great start, ladies.

    You know there are people that are going to read this and say “My job is to teach the curriculum; not be a social worker.” Some will say, “Are we here to build self-esteem OR teach kids the content?”

    Being that we are in the 21st century, should students have the right to some level of technology?

    pete

  4. Why can’t we teach the curriculum while building self-esteem?
    You can boost a child’s self-esteem in the classroom with out specific instruction other than the curriculum; it doesn’t have to be what you teach, it’s the way you teach.

    Students deserve a right to some technology. These days kids are exposed to technologies available in school (computers) before they even get there. It’s their right to be taught proper and productive uses of these technologies.

  5. I forgot to add that I completely agree with Jodi that “computers are good, acceptance is better!”
    Students have the right to learn the curriculum and about some technology, but just as important as the lessons is their environment.

  6. Emily205,
    I agree, it is only our own belief structures that keep us thinking that paying attention to the human side of our students is at odds with teaching the curriculum. I believe that by deliberately developing the human side of the classroom our ability to teach the curriculum effectively increases.
    pete

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