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Students' Rights

As the Supreme Court famously said in Tinker v. Des Moines, students do not "shed their constitutional the schoolhouse gate." The Constitution protects specific individual rights - like freedom of speech, the right to privacy, and freedom of religion - from intrusion by the government. The Constitution doesn't place age requirements on these freedoms. The ACLU believes that all individuals, including young people, should enjoy these basic rights.

Of course, no one's constitutional rights are absolute. The government retains the power to regulate our rights to a limited extent to preserve safety and order in our society. This is true for both young people and adults.

And with rights come responsibilities. The ACLU believes that individuals should exercise their rights in order to preserve them, but we all must exercise our rights with some common sense. This is especially true for students. The courts, which interpret the Constitution, have generally ruled that the rights of public school students can be regulated to a greater degree than the rights of adults. The courts have done this for many reasons, including age and safety considerations and to ensure that the educational process faces a minimum of disruptions during the school day. As a result, public school students have fewer constitutional protections than adults.

ACLU-TN has consistently advocated for greater protections for students through our public education and advocacy work, as well as through our legislative lobbying and litigation. We will continue this fight in the future.



LGBT Youth Resource Center

Adobe PDF Stand Up/Speak Up: A Guide for Youth Activists

Adobe PDF Know Your Rights: A Guide for Public School Students in TN (30.7 MB)

Adobe PDFACLU Student Club Organizing Manual (114 KB)

Military Recruitment In Public Schools (31 KB)

pdf Know Your Rights: Religion in Public Schools

pdf Letter to Public School Superintendents Regarding Holiday Celebrations

Letter to Public School Superintendents Regarding Religion in Schools

Keeping Graduation And Prom Inclusive

Know Your Rights - LGBT Students

Students' Rights Handbook

LGBT Student Resource Guide- Visit our list of national, state, and local organizations that focus on assisting LGBT students.

What's Your Problem - Common issues faced by LGBT youth and their allies and what the law says about them.

Freedom Wire/Youth - National ACLU

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Press Releases

April 11, 2013: ACLU-TN Applauds Senate Decision On Bill Tying Welfare to Children’s Academics

April 2, 2013: ACLU-TN Urges Governor to Veto Anti-All-Comers Legislation - Bill Raises Serious Constitutional Concerns

March 1, 2012: ACLU Responds To Reports Of Proselytizing And Anti-LGBT Remarks By Principal At Tennessee High School - Principal Also Reportedly Said Pregnant Students Will Be “Jobless, Homeless and Living off the Government”

October 19, 2011: Tennessee High School Affirms Students' First Amendment Rights After Dispute Over Gayaight Alliance

October 4, 2011: Tennessee High School Student: Principal Assaulted Me for Wearing T-Shirt Supporting Gayaight Alliance. ACLU Demands Protection for Students' Rights to Free Speech.

September 20, 2011: Free Speech, Street Law, and LGBT Student Rights Among Topics of ACLU-TN Students' Rights Conference

September 8, 2011: ACLU-TN Releases Guide on Religion in Public Schools for Administrators and Teachers

May 9, 2011: ACLU-TN Stops Unconstitutional Bible Distribution in White County School

May 4, 2011: ACLU-TN Urges Schools to Keep Graduation and Prom Inclusive for All Students

May 2, 2011: ACLU-TN Lawsuit Charges Widespread Religious Activities in Sumner County Schools

December 7, 2010: ACLU-TN Alerts Tennessee Public Schools
To Importance of Inclusivity at the Holidays

October 20, 2010: Street Law, Drug Testing and Free Speech Are Among Topics of Upcoming ACLU-TN Students' Rights Conference

September 29, 2009: ACLU-TN Responds to Religious Activity in Tennessee Public Schools - Releases Guide for Administrators and Teachers

September 10, 2008: ACLU Demands Roane County Abandon Illegal Random Drug Testing of Students

April 7, 2008 - Nashville High School Students and Child Welfare Organizations Ask for Comprehensive Non-Discrimination Policy

March 14, 2008: Tennessee High School Senior is Among 15 Winners of ACLU College Scholarship for Youth Activism

May 25, 2005: ACLU-TN Press Release: Accompanied by an ACLU-TN Attorney, Eagleville School Valedictorian Receives His Diploma

May 24, 2001: Tennessean wins ACLU Scholarship


Legislative Alerts

ACLU-TN Legislative Highlights: Students' Rights, 106th Tennessee General Assembly, 2009-2010

March 29, 2010: Contact legislators today--our freedoms at stake this week!

March 15, 2010: Immigrants Rights, LGBT Rights, Privacy, Reproductive Freedom and More - Your Voice Needed!

March 8, 2010: Stand Up for Reproductive Freedom, Voting Rights & Students’ & Immigrants’ Rights This Week

April 27, 2009: Legislative Alert: Free Speech, LGBT Rights, Reproductive Freedom, Immigrants' Rights and More

April 6, 2009: Legislative Alert: Busy Week at the Legislature - Please Contact Legislators ASAP

March 30, 2009: Legislative Alert: Contact Your Legislators for Reproductive Freedom, Voting Rights, Access to Justice and Students' and Women's Rights

March 16, 2009 - Attacks on Women's Reproductive Freedom and Student Safety - Contact Your Legislators

May 9, 2008: ACLU-TN Chart of 2008 TGA Bills Related to Students' Rights and Schools

April 8, 2008: Show the Metro Nashville School Board your support for a comprehensive non-discrimination policy

April 1, 2008: Oppose SB2653/HB2858 - Attack on Students' Privacy Rights

April 9, 2007: Oppose Attacks on Students’ Right to Freedom of Association and Privacy

April 5, 2007: ACLU-TN Urges Metro Nashville School Board To Vote NO on Proposed School Dress Code Policy
PDF iconACLU-TN's Letter to Metro Nashville School Board

ACLU-TN Legislative Chart: Student Rights, 104th TGA, 2005 - 2006 (26 KB)


Past Events

October 22, 2011: Students' Rights Conference - Nashville

November 7, 2011: DotRights Speaking Tour - Knoxville

November 8, 2011: DotRights Speaking Tour - Nashville

November 9, 2011: DotRights Speaking Tour - Memphis




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