Thursday, June 25, 2009

Supreme Court Decides Student Strip Search Case

The U.S. Supreme Court decision on the student strip search case was announced today. The ACLU , who represented April Redding, the mother of the Arizona student, Savana Redding, calls it the first victory for student rights in the last twenty years. The High Court ruled that the search that took place when honors student Savana was 13 years old was an unconstitutional violation of her rights. The search was done by school officials on the basis of an uncollaborated accusation by another student that Savanna had ibuprofen in her prosession. Now nineteen years old, Savanna wrote about her experience and her court victory on the ACLU blog today.

Read Savana's own words about her court victory from the ACLU blog:

Civics 101
by Savana Redding

"People of all ages expect to have the right to privacy in their homes, belongings, and most importantly, their persons. But for far too long, students have been losing these rights the moment they step foot onto public school property -- a lesson I learned firsthand when I was strip-searched by school officials just because another student who was in trouble pointed the finger at me. I do not believe that school officials should be allowed to strip-search kids in school, ever. And though the U.S. Supreme Court did not go quite so far, it did rule that my constitutional rights were violated when I was strip-searched based on nothing more than a classmate's uncorroborated accusation that I had given her ibuprofen. I'm happy for the decision and hope it helps make sure that no other kids will have to experience what I went through.

"Strip searches are a traumatic intrusion of privacy. Forcing children to remove their clothes for bodily inspection is not a tool that school officials should have at their disposal. Yet, until today, the law was apparently unclear, potentially allowing for the most invasive of searches based on the least of suspicions. Every day, parents caution their children about the importance of not talking to strangers, looking both ways before crossing the street, and following directions at school. But I imagine they never think to warn them that a school official, acting on a hunch, may force them to take their clothes off in the name of safety. And now, thankfully, they won't have to.

"Our fundamental rights are only as strong as the next generation believes them to be, and I am humbled to have had a part in preserving and promoting the Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights."

Readers can read the U.S. Supreme Court decision here.

Editor: The journal recently published some articles on another student rights case, Morse v. Frederick, decided by the U.S Supreme Court in 2007. Readers can read two articles on the case in our Winter 2008 issue on "Schooling as if Democracy Matters."

Visions of Public Education In Morse v. Frederick by Aaron H. Caplan

"Bong Hits 4 Jesus”: Have students’ First Amendment rights to free speech been changed after Morse v. Frederick? by Nathan M. Roberts

(Cross-posted on the Social Issues Blog)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Announcing the new Educational Institute for Democratic Renewal

Talk is one thing; action is another. We hope to engage in both. We believe that action without reflective talk is mindless and talk without action is an opportunity missed. Talk is not empty, however, as proponents of the practical and critics of theoretical knowledge sometimes charge. It is merely an opportunity awaiting reflective action. It provides the interpretive frameworks for new ways of understanding, new paradigms for restructuring our experiences, new challenges to older ways of thinking. Sometimes it adds to the growing body of knowledge that has been provided by those who went before us and on whose shoulders we stand. Other times, it confronts the entrenched orthodoxies that blind us and make parts of our experience of the world invisible to us. That is perhaps why John Dewey believed that there was nothing more practical than a good theory.

The journal is a place for talk, a place to look deeply at the tensions, perplexities and controversies of our time. But we also have an activist, progressive arm. In 2004, the Woodring College of Education and the Whatcom Day Academy entered a partnership to explore the role of schooling in promoting and sustaining a democratic society. Our work is affiliated with the League of Democratic Schools, a project initiated by John Goodlad. Our newly formed Educational Institute for Democratic Renewal incorporates our work in developing the journal and our work with the League. In a special section of our website, we share ideas and innovative practices for democratic schooling. Readers can also view our YouTube clip below of Whatcom Day Academy educator Vale Hartley as she discusses democratic practices in her classroom at the 2008 Educational Law and Social Justice Forum that was sponsored by the journal. Vale wrote the article, "The Elementary Classroom: A Key Dimension of a Child's Democratic World," for the winter 2008 issue of our journal.

On our institute's website, we write that "Our goal is to provide an alternative voice for research and scholarship on the educational controversies and initiatives that arise in teaching and learning in pluralistic, democratic societies." One might ask: an alternative to what? We believe that the language of education today has lost its bearings and its moorings. As I mentioned in my posting of March 27th below, silent assumptions underlying our language have controlled the national debate for decades. The language of the market place has become the language of education. Students are talked about as the human capital that keeps the national economy competitive. Although we give lip service to the democratic purposes of education, the language of the market place prevails and all other discourses are on the edge. In a public school system that serves both democracy and capitalism, the public deserves a deeper conversation of the tensions that exist between these two forces. And educational professionals need more public space to create a learning environment that takes seriously the democratic purposes of our schools.

The Educational Institute for Democratic Renewal at the Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University is an attempt to achieve both the goal of talk and the goal of action. It is the home of both the journal and our work in creating a laboratory for democratic practices. The Institute is in its early stages and we will be sharing our progress with our readers of this blog in the future. In the meantime, we would appreciate thoughts and ideas from our readers on what they would like to see from such an Institute. How would it be beneficial to you. Please add your comments to this posting and let us hear from you. Also, does anyone have ideas of Foundations and other organizations that would be interested in joining our efforts and working collaboratively with us?