Student Rights

From free speech to free dress, what rights do students have or relinquish on campus? Smoking bans, faith based initiatives and rights violations are just a few of the topics covered here. Don’t miss out on the latest information on student rights on community college campuses.
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Christian Parks, a Christian student attending Thomas Nelson Community College in Virginia, has filed a lawsuit against his school for prohibiting him from preaching on campus. According to the Christian Post, Parks’ argument is that the school violated his “fundamental rights to free speech, free exercise of religion, due process, and equal protection of the law.” The lawsuit further contends that the school prohibited the plaintiff from preaching on campus for fear that his religious views would offend others and prompt complaints.

 
The college, which is part of the larger Virginia Community College System, maintains a specific policy regarding student demonstrations. In order to stage a demonstration on campus, students are required to be a member of an on-campus student organization and must get permission to pose a demonstration at least four days in advance. The school maintains that the issue at hand is not regarding what Mr. Parks was saying on campus, but that he did not follow proper protocol by failing to get permission to speak ahead of time. Parks’ legal team, the conservative-leaning Alliance Defending Freedom disagrees. Joining the ADF in supporting Mr. Parks’ complaint is the Virginia Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which released a statement saying that students deserve a first-rate college education, “which is impossible without a free exchange of ideas on campus.”
 
An Anti-Free Speech Trend
 
In March 2014, a group of professors at the University of California at Santa Barbara confronted a student who was . . . read more

Discrimination has become a point of focus at Maricopa Community Colleges in Phoenix, Arizona, as the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has launched into an investigation of some of the practices of the college system. The investigations are in response to concerns raised over two key issues: the request for immigration status from some students and the failure to provide appropriate services to non-English speaking students.

Concerns Raised by Civil Rights Center
 
Concerns over both of these issues were initially raised by a non-profit organization based out of Phoenix, known as the Civil Rights Center. Information on this organization is limited, but according to a report in the New York Times last year, the bare-boned group is run out of the Phoenix home of its director, Silverio Garcia Jr. Last year, Garcia filed a class-action complaint with the Department of Education, alleging that teachers in Phoenix schools were improperly transferred due to speaking accents that some children had difficulty understanding.

“This was one culture telling another culture that you are not speaking correctly,” Garcia told the New York Times.
 
The complaint, which was filed in May, 2010, was closed in late August, 2011, after the state agreed to alter its policy that stated only teachers who were fluent in the English could teach students learning English. State officials said at the time accents were not a part of their monitoring process to determine whether teachers should remain in the classroom.
 
This year, Silverio Garcia’s organization has gone after . . . read more

Smoking bans are not new at community colleges; many schools have prohibited smoking in buildings and other areas of campus for years. However, complete, school-wide smoking bans are still a relatively new – and growing – trend for the 20-something crowd. Many community colleges have implemented such bans, with 120 campuses jumping onto the smoke-free bandwagon this year alone. However, campus-wide smoking bans are not met with enthusiasm by all students, and enforcement has proven to be a significant issue for many of these schools. Take a look at why some community colleges are launching such bans, and how they are handling the negative aspects of their decisions with students.

Smoke-Free = Cleaner, Healthier Campuses
 
According to a recent report on Christian Post, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nearly 22 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 smoke. Some colleges implementing a smoking ban are hoping to encourage students to kick the habit as a result. To that end, college representatives share information on quitting with students and provide aids like nicotine patches and gum to students during school hours.
 
Other community colleges have initiated smoking bans to clean up campuses littered with second-hand smoke and cigarette butts. The first college to launch a campus-wide ban, Ozarks Technical College in Springfield, Missouri, had that goal in mind. According to CNN, the president of the college approached Ty Patterson, the former vice president of student affairs at Ozarks, about the smoking . . . read more

Social media like Facebook has been in the midst of more than one free speech controversy in recent years. A community college student is in the center of this latest clash, after posting scathing remarks about a certain school policy directly on the school’s Facebook page. So where does free speech end and the rules of proper conduct begin? If one examines this particular case, he or she will quickly discover that the lines are still fairly muddy in this relatively new area of First Amendment rights.

About the Facebook Poster
 
Marc Bechtol is a 37-year-old marketing student at Catawba Valley Community College in North Carolina. According to NBC-2, Bechtol’s disgruntled attitude arose after he learned that his college was going to offer a debit card that doubled as a student identification card on campus. Bechtol alerted the school that he did not want the card, and that he didn’t want his personal information, such as his social security number, shared with financial entities outside the college. Bechtol said Catawba Valley agreed to his request.
 
And the Controversy Begins
 
However, it wasn’t long before Bechtol received the school debit card in the mail – and discovered that the financial company issuing the cards, Higher One Financial Services, did have access to his personal information, including his social security number. Bechtol also began receiving email offers for credit cards from other banks after the initial debit card was issued. In addition, Bechtol began receiving additional email marketing from . . . read more

In March, President Obama put out a call to community colleges, universities and theology schools to come together despite their diverse faiths to make their communities a better place. Since the initial call went out from the White House, more than 240 schools have answered the challenge – a much larger number than the administration originally planned for. This movement has a twofold purpose; first, to cross religious lines and promote religious tolerance for college students across the country. The second purpose is to work together as a community to help those in need and protect the environment. With a growing population of postsecondary institutions jumping on the Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, it appears that the White House might get its wish on both counts.

 What is the Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge?
 
According to a report at WhiteHouse.gov, the Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge serves the ultimate goal of President Obama to emphasize faith and community involvement as a means of building understanding between diverse communities and contributing to the common good. As the President said in his address when he announced this challenge, “For over 200 years, Americans of all faiths have come together, put their shoulders to the wheel of history, and made this country what it is today. And I know that as we go forward, it’s going to take all of us – Christian and Jew, Hindu and Muslim, believer and non-believer – to meet the challenges . . . read more
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