Staff Editorial: How far do you think freedom of expression should go in school?

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Riley Findley

Student enveloped in constant fear of being silenced.

Jessica Borla – Everyone has their own voice that is dying to be heard. Whether this is through wardrobe, verbal communication, or any other form, it is important that people receive the respect that they deserve. At school, certain things are frowned upon and given restrictions, such as dress codes and little to no talk regarding religious beliefs. I believe that as long as people are respectful towards others’ opinions and these opinions are harmless to others, freedom of expression should be up to the student. For example, if a student feels comfortable in something that they are wearing, a dress code should not stop them. Often dress codes claim that certain clothing is distracting; however, this is only due to them being sexualized and they aren’t harming anyone. Also, if people want to pray before a sporting game or any other ritual pertaining to another religion, people or school teams should not be stopped. If they have a choice whether to participate or not, that is all that matters. No one should be forced to hide when it comes to freedom of expression; unless it is out of the question inappropriate, freedom of expression should be encouraged.

 

Elizabeth Findley – There is no doubt in my mind that self-expression is something that is extremely important to people, especially at a school age, and it is something to be encouraged even in school systems. However, there is a definite line when discussing the idea of the freedom of self-expression in individual classes. On one side, there is the truth that personal expression is exceptionally valuable and should be encouraged and allowed within schools, but there is also the idea that school in itself is here to teach young people important facts, skills and teach students how to apply things into their life into the future. Though these things don’t always allow room for self-expression, they are still important things to learn. If a student wants to express themselves in a more creative way, they should look into signing up for a more creative class such as art or photography. Inside these creative classes though students should have a fairly wide range in regards to the ideas and emotions they are allowed to share and express.

 

Riley Findley – Under the Tinker v. Des Moines Supreme Court Case of 1968, speech that can be considered disruption to the learning environment can be infringed on. This has been used in subsequent decades by school districts to restrict student’s wardrobe choices and expression under the veil of disturbing the classroom. The Supreme Court has upheld school decisions to punish students for adorning clothes that contain sexual innuendos, as well as clothes that promote drug culture. These clothes are types of expression, which do not impede the ability of the students to learn from their instructor. Allowing administration to determine for themselves what is and isn’t acceptable is subjective. Judge Hugo Black, in the Tinker case, said that he had “never believed that any person has a right to give speeches or engage in demonstrations where he pleases and when he pleases.” Though my point isn’t true to the intent of his point, I believe that it can be applied when determining what type of expression should be allowed. So long as it does not impede the lesson, it should be allowed. Controversial clothing does not disallow the teacher to speak, and personally promoting controversy while the teacher isn’t speaking doesn’t either.

 

Quinn Forney – As teenagers, most students feel the need to express themselves. Expressing oneself is fine, and it contributes to the community at our school. However, I think there is such a thing as too far. Sometimes, people utilize “freedom of expression” to harm other people. Expressing oneself in a discriminatory manner is detrimental to the community and can lead to bullying or other issues. In a school setting, students need the ability to freely and comfortably express themselves, and having harmful expression hurts that ability. Schools should allow for student expression, but ensure that no one is being directly harmed by another’s “expression”.

 

Madeline Laguaite – As with everything, there is always a line that dares individuals to cross it: the definition of controversy. Such as it is with freedom of speech in high schools. While I admire and depend on my freedom of speech, the availability of it in high school should probably be monitored. Freedom of speech exists so as to give everyone a voice; it does not support a person’s choice to bully other students in the form of taunting or verbal assaults. As I am all for a person’s right to use their voice as they please, in schools I believe this right should be monitored.

 

Jordan Meaker – As citizens of the United States, even though we are in high school, we are entitled to the freedom of speech provided for in the First Amendment. While there are some limitations that exist on the personal expression of Lambert students, I think they are reasonable and do not play a role in hindering personal beliefs and thoughts. For example, it’s entirely reasonable that hate speech and clothing promoting inappropriate words or symbols are prohibited in our school environment. Expressing yourself should never involve putting down other individuals or groups. Regarding the freedoms that we are allotted, I am grateful that we attend a school where freedom of religious expression is allowed and celebrated. Even though we only have Christian clubs, there are still opportunities for students to start clubs that express their diverse religious beliefs and that is truly a unique opportunity that should be afforded to students in schools all around the country.

 

SungMin Park – Freedom of expression in school must be characterized by certain traits: 1) not harmful and 2) appropriate. In a country where we have suffered enough discrimination – most of our history involved slavery and racism after all – the nation has been progressing more and more into respecting diversity. That trend ought to be joined. When speaking out, words should be selected wisely. There is a difference between offending and abusing. Offense is necessary at times to bring about progress, but abuse only cripples the legs of others and our efforts to get better. School must be treated with at least some sacredness. The list of taboos is obvious: narcotic drugs, alcohol, explicit sexual themes, bigotry, and more. These are restricted because they are distracting and unnecessary to the learning environment. Now, these are the technical requirements but I have my own personal one. The speech has to have a message of value. I would ask anybody who wants to speak what their purpose is. Is it to just rattle people and collect attention? Or is it to introduce a change that will benefit others?

 

Olivia Pastore – In school, expression is generally unlimited when it comes to rules. We obviously are allowed to state our opinions (even in some cases if the opinions are uneducated and rude) without being punished. There is however an unwritten code in high school deciding what is ‘cool’ or what is ‘weird’. Students are technically free to express themselves in their hobbies, clothing, and actions, but that doesn’t mean people will escape the judgments of others. For example, many musically talented students shy away from performing at the Lambert Variety Show or auditioning for school plays in fear of being deemed ‘uncool’. Personally, I spent the entirety of middle school through most of junior year trying too hard to conform to different groups and be accepted, especially with how I dressed. It just left me empty in the end. Everyone is so complex and has a story to share, but they get so caught up in the fear of being different that they lose themselves in the process. To quote The Breakfast Club: “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”

 

Nusaybah Smith — Freedom of expression should manifest in as many ways as healthy when it comes to student expression in school. It’s important to have the opportunity to have outlets, considering we tend to give up our rights to begin with as we enter into compulsory education. It should not go as far as to alienate other pupils, or to put their education in jeopardy. Additionally, teachers and students should share a dynamic relationship that neither stifles their basic rights as human beings, nor causes a riff between their relationship as educators, as well as students.

 

Cayla Vanderzanden – I believe that there has to be a happy medium with everything in life. Balance is key. At school, we are the students, which needs to be kept in mind. Within the role of being a student, we have to respect the teachers. This respect goes is in regards to their rules, assignments, and classroom procedure. That means that being rude, disobeying, or intentionally disrupting class is not okay. However, we do have rights that guarantee us freedom of expression. These rights allow us to stand up for what we believe in. As a student, I believe there are respectful ways in which we can enforce our right. We can ask questions, respectfully share our opinion, and engage in classroom discussions. None of these things should get a student in trouble, if they do, then that’s an issue with the school. However, if a student chooses to talk in a negative tone, that is an issue with the student.

 

Lael White – Freedom of expression is something very important in this world.. Everyone should always feel free to express themselves and their opinions. However, at school I would say there needs to be a limit to expression. The reason behind this is because others around you have different beliefs religiously and politically etc. so some of the things you say could offend many other people around you. I also believe that how you express your opinions towards authority figures should be limited as well because it must be presented in a respectful way, all in all there is a limit to freedom of expression at school and it should be there.

 

Logan White – It is very important that students learn how to form opinions, so freedom of expression should be a priority within America’s education systems. However, learning to express said opinions respectfully is just as important as forming them. The United States serves as a beacon of hope for those in search of freedom, and without freedom, no opinions would be genuine. I believe that deep discussion in class is an incredible tool for enhancing education. Discussion and debate spark much more interest in the minds of students than simply sitting in classroom listening to a lecture. Freedom of expression in schools should be encouraged but monitored. People should remain respectful, and never ridicule or demean the beliefs of others.

 

Jessica Wilder – The idea of freedom of expression has been blurred throughout the years in that those who wish to truly express themselves live in a society where what they treasure can be “weird” to others. It’s a shame, really, that kids feel the need to hide behind what is “cool” in the environment they are in. Yet, if they are brave enough to show that side of themselves, it is the thought of putting up with possible judgment that becomes the problem. The thought of being different from the crowd is a taboo kind of feeling that comes with risks, but the kids that take on the challenge are ones to have hats tipped to. Self-expression is an important part of identity as a teenager and schools and the rest of society should recognize that uniqueness is what adds extra spice to this world and keeps things interesting and flowing in a way that uniformity never could.

 

Kelly Yoon – As students spend more than one fourth of 24 hours given each day at school for five days a week, I believe they should have all rights given to them to fully express themselves during the day. I strongly feel the need to provide all students with equal amount of freedom both in and out of school. America is a widely diversified country with various race and sex groups along with their protected rights under the same amendments created in the old times. Every one of Americans or even foreigners should be given fair treatments even when under specific orders. Teachers are able to take control over the younger ones in forcing to change their actions due to the educators’ superiorities provided within school hours. I believe that students should be trained to control and hold responsibilities towards themselves to make their own decisions that would affect them only. Due to as much as support provided by the administrators, the kids will be able to learn from their mistakes to keep the freedom found within them. Adults should not be over on top of high school students as they are being educated to become one, themselves.