Education Nation

Commentary: Students Examine Their Rights in School

The issue of student rights surfaced recently after a Kansas state legislative committee defeated a bill that would have defined corporal punishment as “up to ten forceful applications in succession of a bare, open-hand palm against the clothed buttocks of a child.” Although the bill failed to be presented for a full vote, existing laws make Kansas one of 19 states that permit corporal punishment in schools.

I sat down with three students and two student activists to discuss whether corporal punishment in schools violates student rights. We also considered the state of student first amendment rights, the right of students to protest, and religion in schools. A recap of our conversation is posted above, and you can watch the whole Google+ Hangout here.


  • Jack Andraka, a Maryland high school sophomore who at age 15 invented an early-detection cancer screening device
  • Frank Dawson, Acting Associate Dean of Career and Technical Education at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California and a participant in Cornell’s Willard Straight Hall student takeover in 1969
  • Zack Kopplin, a junior at Rice University studying history and an advocate for the separation of church and state in public schools
  • Zak Malamed, the Founder and Executive Director of Student Voice and a sophomore at the University of Maryland, College Park, majoring in Social Engagement
  • Mary Beth Tinker, a nurse and student rights activist who won a landmark supreme court case in 1969 involving students’ First Amendment rights