Book Review                                      Online Exclusive


Understanding Student Rights

in Schools     

Speech, Religion, and Privacy in Educational Settings

by Bryan R. Warnick, Teachers College Press, New York, N.Y., 2013, 208 pp., $48.95 softcover


Public school leaders no longer ask, “Do students have rights in schools?” Many court decisions beginning with the Supreme Court’s 1969 ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community Schools District, stating that students and teachers “do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression at the schoolhouse gate,” answered that question. So why do we need another book on student rights in public schools?

Bryan Warnick, an associate professor of philosophy of education at The Ohio State University, provides an excellent rationale for reading Understanding Student Rights in Schools: Speech, Religion, and Privacy in Educational Settings. The book begins by discussing two often competing needs in providing an adequate public education for all. The same courts that declared the rights of students also placed restrictions on those rights when they compete with providing a safe and orderly education environment free from disruptive behaviors.

Many of the court cases and emerging policies following precedents will be familiar to school leaders who have taken school law coursework, as well as annual professional development regarding trends in school law. What is unique in Warnick’s work is his emphasis on what he calls the “special characteristics of school.”

Warnick provides an analytic framework for understanding these special characteristics and how they mediate policies and procedures regarding student rights as they apply to timely issues of speech, religion and privacy in public schools. 

Reviewed by Steve Jenkins, chair, department of educational leadership, Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas


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