Human Rights in the School

Chapter Seven

Fundamental Freedoms

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts our right to freedom of movement, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of assembly, among others.31 Freedom, in its absolute form, is defined by the dictionary as "the state of being able to act without hindrance or restraint, liberty of action".32 In Society, human rights of freedom are subject to reasonable limitations

If human rights are to be respected within the school, the fundamental freedoms of the school participants must be respected and accommodated. Observance of fundamental. freedoms will only be possible, however. to the extent that the freedoms of some do not unreasonably infringe on the human rights of others.

The following checklist addresses some issues relating to freedom of expression, religion, assembly, association and mobility as they pertain to the school. In the school setting, these rights obviously must be in balance with the right of its students to receive an education.

Fundamental Freedoms Yes Somewhat No Don't Know
1. Does the school curriculum address the right to freedom?

2. Are students free to express, exchange and discuss views and opinions in a climate which respects human rights?

3. (a)Do teachers provide students with opportunities to explore controversial issues freely in class?

(b) Is the teacher sufficiently informed about different views on the issue so as to properly guide and mediate the discussion?

(c) Does the teacher ensure that such discussions are respectful of the rights and dignity of others?

4. Providing they respect the dignity and rights of others, do staff and students have the right:
(a) to produce and distribute publications, subject to the laws of defamation; and

(b) to assemble on school property?

5. Are students free to form whichever school clubs or associations they wish so long as such clubs and associations are consistent with the rights and dignity of others?

6. Are school participants allowed freedom of dress and appearance provided it:
(a) Does not substantially interfere with the educational process;

(b) Does not unduly affect the safety, health and well-being of students; and

(c) Does not infringe on the rights and dignity of others?

7. Does the school reasonably accommodate school participants in observing their traditional religious practices where such observance is consistent with the rights and dignity of others?

8. Are school participants free to associate with groups or organizations of their choosing and to engage in political activity in the school so long as such activities are consistent with the rights and dignity of others and do not substantially interfere with the educational process?

9. Does the school ensure that all areas of its buildings and grounds are well lit, supervised and secure when activities are in progress?

next >>