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An argument that public schools are the building blocks of our societies

Many decisions are made for us, and asking what we think is often an afterthought. The new Student Bill of Rights is working to change that. The concept of a Student Bill of Rights is not newbut if student rights are to be truly authentic and learner-driven, those rights must come from students. First and foremost, the Student Bill is a mechanism for empowering students in schools across the nation to voice their opinions and needs, driving holistic educational progress.

5.1 Social Structure: The Building Blocks of Social Life

A cornerstone of this undertaking is improving the learning that happens in our schools, which greater student autonomy and engagement has repeatedly proven to do. More fundamentally, students are people and people have rights, as the Supreme Court has ruled. If we want future generations of informed, engaged citizens, we should treat them that way from the start.

These 11 student-driven amendments will change the future of education by being grassroots building blocks for change: Want to know what schools are really like at the classroom level? Letting students speak out will give you far more insightful and detailed answers than relying solely on tests.

Schools should be held accountable by their students, too.

11 Rights All Students (Should) Have

Students should be able to express their ideas and speak out about their experiences without fear or suppression. The National Institute of Mental Health also reports that suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth, and 11 percent of youth will fight depression by the time they turn 18.

Students should be safe and supported in school, physically and mentally. Department of Educationabout 200,000 students faced corporal punishment in 2006; of those, 39,000 were students with disabilities. The vast majority of people who go into education do so for a love for helping children grow and succeed.

Still, there remain pockets of abhorrent abuse, and we need to do more to end it. Students have a right to fair and just treatment, free of coercion and fear. The national ratio of school counselors to students in this country is 478 to 1. There is no alternative. Any discussion about student rights needs to include students at the table. Students need to inform policy and contribute to decisions.

The difference between experimenting and innovating in education is the difference between students as guinea pigs, and students being authentic partners of change.

We must have the right to help shape our institutions and future. This is a two-way street. In the digital age, we have to ensure that students have control over their information, and protect students from the possibilities of privacy intrusions or abuse. Part of that is maintaining an economy that provides every citizen with opportunities to find meaningful work that allows them to support themselves and their families.

Education must be grounded in this goal before reaching higher. Students need to know that staying in school will prepare them for a job. Want citizens who vote, know the issues, and give a general damn? Assessment helps ensure we deliver on the promise of public education; that truly no one gets left behind, despite the baggage that phrase carries.

Current assessments can be inadequate, even detrimental, to that goal. Assessment should lift us up, not put us down. Students should have the right to demonstrate mastery in a way that respects and supports them as unique learners.

We need high speed internet access, devices, and up-to-date software in our schools, and we need it today. The current administration has made tremendous strides to this endand hopefully whomever is next will continue on. Our generation is riding a cultural and demographic wave that will redefine our nation. Our schools will see this change first, as they always have, and we must make sure that they are not worn down by the same racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and other vices that cling to our society.

The classroom should be a place where everyone can come together to learn. Ultimately, the Student Bill of Rights is not a hall-pass that permits students to participate in changing their schools and be heard. We are already doing that. Students like Dawnya Johnson are helping fellow Baltimore youth improve job opportunities and attend collegeNiki Adeli is speaking out on changing standardized assessment, and Tess Harkin and Sam Parekh, student journalists who covered the national superintendents summit at the White House earlier this year to improve the state of technology in schools.

What we need now is collective action. There are about 55 million K-12 students in this country, and about 20 million in degree-granting colleges. If students are treated as allies rather than subjects, imagine what could be achieved. We, the students, merely suggest these rights to ensure a more perfect education for all. Learn more or join the movement at StuVoice. For more on student voice, check out: