Human Rights in the School

Chapter Five


When we think of the word "justice", we most often equate it with the rules of fairness governing our system of criminal law. The human right to justice, however, has a broader application. It applies not only to our criminal justice system but to the administration of rules, regulations and vested power in state authorities. We might call this administrative justice, or the right of all to be treated equally before the law.27 The term "justice" extends even further when used to refer to social justice. Social justice includes not only equality before the law social justice demands the organization of society's resources and institutions in such a way as to enable everyone to exercise all of their human rights equally. This section, however, will focus on administrative justice

Administrative justice is essentially designed to protect citizens from abuse of power by state authorities. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifies a number of rights which can be categorized as justice rights. They include the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the right to present a defence, and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.28

The running of a public institution, such as a school, necessitates the establishment and administering of policies and procedures to ensure an effective learning environment. Commensurate with this right is the responsibility to manage with justice.

The checklist contained in this chapter addresses issues related to fair treatment of students, child abuse, discipline and privacy. It suggests standards for fair and just management, based on the notion of justice and on general human rights principles.

Justice Issues Yes Somewhat No Don't Know
1. Does the school curriculum address the right to justice?

2. Are staff, students and parents kept informed about the discipline policies of the school?

3. Are students and staff given a reasonable chance to respond to accusations of misbehaviour?

4. Is the degree of the discipline administered to staff and students appropriate to the degree of the misbehaviour?

5. Does the school prohibit discipline which could be considered cruel, inhuman or degrading?

6. Is the use of sarcasm, ridicule or other humiliating conduct by staff and students prohibited?

7. Is punishment only administered to wrongdoers rather than to the entire class?

8. Are there procedures to object to or appeal decisions made within the school?

9. Does the school have a policy addressing the arbitrary detention of students?

10. Are searches of students' property, including student lockers, normally carried out only where reasonable cause exists and, where possible, in the presence of the owner?

11. Do staff treat confidential information with respect and keep it confidential? For example, do they refrain from discussing, in the community, personal information about students?

12. Are students and staff made aware of the existence of records or information regarding them and the purpose of that record?29

13. Does school division policy allow staff and students to have access to their personal records and to the information necessary to interpret them?

14. Are students and staff able to formally challenge the accuracy and completeness of information contained in their personal records?

15. Has the school administration informed all staff of the legal reporting requirements of suspected child abuse?

16. Does the school have a personal safety program to address the issues of physical or sexual abuse and to enable the reporting by students of such abuse?

17. Does the school administration support employees in reporting suspected child physical or sexual abuse to the appropriate child and family services agency

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