Did you know that as a college student you're entitled to certain rights? You're probably thinking, "Yeah, that's obvious," but have you ever sat down and thought about what exactly your rights as a student entail?
Of course, there's the traditional rights against discrimination based upon gender, disability, etc. (see the U.S. Department of Education's webpage for a complete list), and your rights against sexual misconduct, but few college students know their rights extend further than that.
Most universities have a student handbook with rules students and faculty must follow and policies on discipline procedures if these rules are broken. Did you know that in some handbooks you have a right to be present when your room is searched and they must have a valid search warrant? Might be helpful to know the next time someone comes knocking..
But most importantly, if you ever get in trouble at school and the school thinks it warrants kicking you out of school, you are entitled to what's known as a "Due Process Hearing."
According to an article by the Huffington Post, Valdosta State University was found guilty of violating a student's due process rights in 2007. They expelled a student because they claim he was "a clear and present danger," but the reality is he opposed the construction of a parking garage which contradicted the President's opinion. He was never given a hearing where he could defend himself and the university could justify their actions. Because of this, the student, Hayden Barnes, sued the university for violating his due process rights and his freedom of speech.
The case went to district court, and the school was found guilty of violating Barnes' right to due process.
But this isn't the first time the issue of due process for a college student has come up.
The Supreme Court ruled on due process rights for students in the Goss v. Lopez case 1975. Nine students were suspended for misbehavior and the court ruled their due process rights were violated and that a school "cannot deprive [students] of [their education] without ensuring due process protections."
Furthermore, an organization named, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has done an excellent job thoroughly explaining your due process rights as a student. According to their webpage, "If you are a student at a public college or university and you face the possibility of serious punishment—expulsion, suspension, or some lesser but still significant sanction—you are entitled to certain protections under the Constitution’s guarantee of “due process.”
This is because when you attend a public college or university, you pay them to be there. According to the two amendments that deal with due process, the 5th and 14th Amendments, you have the right not to be deprived of life, liberty, or property without proper justification through a court hearing. When a public institution takes your money, they promise to give you an education in return. When something happens that may prevent you from receiving that education, or think of it as the "property" you were promised, the institution that took your money must justify and have a good reason as to why they can't give you an education you paid to receive.
So, the next time you get in trouble at school, be aware of your rights. Familiarize yourself with the student handbook for the school you attend, and be prepared to defend yourself if you feel like your rights are being violated.