Freshman decries loss of rights

[Editor’s note: The following email is from a 15-year-old freshman girl at McIntosh High School. Although she provided her name and address, we are not printing that information.]

Many students might have and should have signed the “Student Code of Conduct” in the beginning of the year. This “contract” had to be signed for students to attend classes.

Most students, me included, did not read the Code of Conduct. It was just another silly form students had to sign to please the administrators.

As it turns out we should have read the 30-page “rule book.” When I signed my name at the bottom of the green slip of paper, I did not realize I was signing away my basic human and constitutional rights.

I have been told by multiple teachers and upperclassmen, “You’re a freshman, you’ll learn that in high school you have no rights.” I nodded in agreement and thought it was just another made-up stereotype of high school.

Recently I experienced this absolute lack of rights. Only the other day I was out in the hall before school started, showing my friend a picture on my phone. A staff member I didn’t recognize, later identified as [name omitted], approached me and asked for both our phones.

How was I to know she was a teacher? I had never seen her before and she was not wearing a badge, only a name tag.

While my friend handed hers over, I politely declined, stating that it is my private property, which it was. Not only had school not started yet, but she had no valid reason to ask for the phone.

It’s not as if I was showing something explicit (it was my dog) or that my phone was an explosive device. She then asked for my name which I also refused to give. In defense of this, I did not know who she was. When a random stranger approaches you and asks for both your phone and your name, do you just hand it over?

I later find myself with three days of ISS (in-school suspension) for “Insubordination: failure to comply with the directions of a staff member.”

There was no insubordination, only a student acting on the rights she believed she had as not a citizen of the United States but as a human.

In the agenda on the first page it states, “Positive relationships and mutual respect among students and staff enhance student learning.” While I showed respect, I received none from [name omitted]. She behaved as if I had committed a crime when I refused to hand her my phone, when in actuality it was the other way around.

According to [a school official], students are not permitted to have devices out unless supervised by a teacher.

We all know that at least half of the students are always on their phones, yet not all of them are punished. According to administrators this is because there is not a large enough staff to enforce it on every single student.

If you can’t enforce it on all students equally, you should not be picking out certain students. This is a form of bullying, and as I remember McIntosh has an “anti-bullying” policy.

We are also not allowed to have the devices unsupervised since the moment we step foot on campus. I’ll admit, I didn’t know this, but what troubled me most was that McIntosh is the only high school in the county with that rule.

My argument was that I have basic human rights to my own property, and as I was not violating anybody else’s right, there is no room for any type of punishment. [The official] then informs me that as soon as students step foot on campus theoretically they do not have rights.

Again on the first page of the agenda right under the bolded word “Belief Statements,” it states, “Public education is the foundation of a free society.” How is this true if we are treated with no rights whatsoever?

Students are not only bullied by teachers, but also have their rights taken away. Learn from my mistake; logic and human rights will not defend your case against the administration acting like children.

Name withheld at editor’s discretion
Peachtree City, Ga.