Entering a college, you are to immerse into a life full of events and experiences both enjoyable and not-so-pleasant ones. Being aware of your constitutional freedoms as a student has the potential to make your college years more satisfactory and strengthen your confidence when facing the violation of fundamental college students’ rights and liberties. According to the OCR, the implementation of numerous civil rights laws has contributed greatly to the decrease in discrimination cases on college campuses. But still, they’re not completely eliminated. Here we’ll cover the essence of the most prominent acts including Title IX, Transgender Student Rights, Students with disabilities rights, Student Civil & Privacy Rights, Contract and Consumer Rights to ensure your understanding of what you’re entitled to as a student.
Title IX Explained
Title IX went into power in 1972 together with a number of other significant Education Amendments. It’s targeted specifically at the prevention of crimes and offences connected with sex discrimination on campus. Educational institutions must, by all means, stop and eradicate harassment, sexual assaults, dating violence, and abuse, otherwise, they can lose their license and governmental funding.
If you find yourself in one of the above-mentioned situations, you should reach out to a Title IX Coordinator, whose contacts you may find at your college website. They are helpful on all stages and in any harassment-related circumstances: ask them about useful resources, get crisis advice, and a helping hand that knows exactly what to do.
There’s quite a number of useful sources where you can learn more about Title IX or receive qualified assistance:
- Pact5 - a student-initiated movement that aims to eliminate sexual discrimination on college campuses. Pact5 activists shoot short films, drawing more attention to the cause and encouraging victims and witnesses across the country to take immediate action.
- Title IX Resource Guide - a complete source for deeper Title IX investigation, that contains statistics, online resources, action guides for sexual assault victims and those who want to help them.
- Safehorizon - a national hotline for crisis situations that works 24/7. They offer both online and face-to-face sessions and private talks for those who have nobody to turn to. The people on the other end of the wire are experienced social workers, who will find a way out of any deadlock.
- RAINN - another hotline for anyone in need of support, help, advice, or additional information on the topic. A crew of skilled psychologists is keen on returning sexual assault survivors back to full life.
- NCAA - a comprehensive resource that contains answers for all possible Title IX-related questions.
Transgender Students’ Rights Protection
Although there’s no pact that would cover transgender rights specifically, the majority of anti-bullying and anti-discriminatory bills have adopted transgender-related articles to feel such students feel safe and protected. The main Education Amendment that regulates transgender rights is the well-known Title IX that has sections that require student equality, transgender-inclusive campus housing, elimination of harassment on the basis of sexual identity.
Whatever gender you are, knowing your student civil rights is essential to exclude discrimination on a college campus. If you feel that your freedoms as a transgender student have been breached, you can go to your college website and contact the Title IX officer. In case the issue can’t be tackled, you may write a complaint letter that will be considered by the OCR (U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights).
Here’re some useful links that will let you understand the transgender college rights problematique and know what to do to protect your rights.
- Nea.org - a source of official information about transgender rights and how to act if they’re violated.
- Findlaw - another resource that aims to educate students on gender equality and freedoms.
- TYEF - foundation that provides education and support for transgender, gender non-conforming children, youth, and their families.
- National Center for Transgender Equality - a national website that has an array of information on the topic, yearly statistics, and useful additional topics.
- Trans Student Educational Resources - a database of resources for college administration and initiative students to build an inclusive and welcoming environment for all.
- Gender Spectrum - the aim of Gender Spectrum is to build a society that accepts young people of all kinds and creates better experiences for those who need a little more care.
Students With Disabilities Rights Guarding
It may be difficult in a society that is not ready to be inclusive, fortunately, in the US the absolute majority of higher schools now cater for the needs of all kinds of young people. Schools fall under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which provides a broad number of benefits and preferential for students with special needs.
However, it doesn’t cover college education, for there are other legal acts: Title II, known as ADA compliance, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Both acts aim to remove any barriers when it comes to acceptance and organization of the educational process for disabled students in any type of higher educational institution.
To stop or prevent discrimination on the basis of mental or physical disability, you can turn to a social officer available at any college, or file a complaint first on the local and then on the OCR level. But first, make sure to study the above-mentioned act to be exact about what rights have been violated exactly.
In case you think your rights are being ignored by anyone within your college space, check out the following resources.
- BestColleges.com - tells about inclusive colleges with top rates and gives comprehensive information on how to make any institution more caring about students with disabilities.
- Child Mind Institute - not only talks about the rights and freedoms of people with special needs but motivates students to pursue their educational dreams.
- The Arc. - an organization that helps students with disabilities uphold their rights.
- National Center for Learning Disabilities - is a national community that empowers young people and stands for the protection of their rights.
- Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund - an organization you can turn to if your rights have been violated.
Preserving Student Civil & Privacy Rights
Once you’re on campus, you might be shocked at the lack of privacy you’ll have to deal with. Although to understand if your limits have been breached, it’s necessary to get acquainted with the Fourth Amendment which clarifies privacy among the basic civil liberties of any American, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act which further explains the meaning of “privacy” for college students.
Students may have concerns about 3 types of privacy, including housing, academic notes, health details, and online privacy. All of them are covered in the FERPA but in the case at least one of them has been violated and the issue can’t be resolved in private, you can file a grievance. In such a way you can protect not only yourself but other people who remain silent, while they should speak out.
The privacy-keeping issue is a tricky one because sometimes ordinary actions might be mistaken for rights’ violation. To avoid misunderstanding, make use of the following websites.
- ShareMyLesson - has a number of articles dedicated to preserving digital privacy while studying online and useful tips for techniques on keeping student data safe.
- American Civil Liberties Union - the non-governmental community that explains what rights and liberties you have as a student and encourages everyone to keep an eye on their preservation.
- EdSource - the resource will be beneficial both for students and teachers as it describes problems related to privacy in distance learning.
- Forum Guide to Education Data Privacy - a comprehensive data source of reliable information on student privacy and ways of its implementation.
- Classtime - shares insights into teachers’ tricks on how not to breach students’ laws concerning privacy.
Protection of Contractractual and Consumer Rights
When the decision about college is made, here comes the need to sign a contract that imposes certain obligations on both sides. However, such documents benefit educational institutions slightly more. That’s why read carefully anything you sign, or clarify questionable points with a lawyer.
Another type of establishing contractual relations happens when you take student loans. The previous government took care of putting students at ease by introducing the Student Aid Bill of Rights. According to it, students are supported when repaying their debts, processing complaints, and dealing with other kinds of contractual issues.
Signing a contract without proper preparation would be a mistake. So the more you read and learn before, the safer you’ll be during the contractual period.
- U.S. Department of Education - the page is dedicated to the Student Aid Bill of Rights, its practical use, and giving student advice.
- The Century Foundation - if you are to sign a contract with a college, look carefully into the article, as it helps understand all the pitfalls you may encounter after signing.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - a governmental source of information that gives a clear understanding of student rights, obligations, and consequences when considering loans.
Additional Student Rights Resources
- FIRE - an independent organization that aims to make colleges and universities a better place for young adults.
- Fourth Amendment Rights of Students - if you need some more information about preserving students’ rights and their limits.
- Parent Coalition for Student Privacy - a community founded by students’ parents to help other moms and dads when their kid is in trouble.
- Stanford University - a comprehensive article on Title IX implementation, Q&A, and statistics.
- CommonSense - a community of student rights activists aiming to empower others to stand for their Constitutional liberties.
- Campus Pride - a source of information about transgender students, their needs, rights, and freedoms.
- Lambda Legal - here you can find answers to the most popular questions about transgender students’ wellbeing on college campuses and their civil rights guarding.
The Bottom Line
Being a student means absorbing tons of information quickly. Academic knowledge is essential but being aware of your own rights and freedoms as a student seems even more crucial. Mind that you should read and learn about student laws before you enter a college because only in this case you’ll be able to completely avoid or nip the issue in the bud.