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Violence at schools is on the rise, the number of attacks against students more than doubled since 1999. And with 84% of school shootings taking place at the kindergarten through twelfth grade level, students are seeking a nationwide platform to speak out concerning gun violence and school safety. Students are uniting around the country for causes such as protesting school violence. And they are seeing success in their efforts in the spread of awareness, the nationwide conversation, and the bridges being built between local school students and staff. Student’s rights have evolved since Tinker v. Des Moines, free speech increasing because of social media, as well as school-wide participation in walkouts and student protests including school administration cooperating with students to discourage and/or reduce the frequency of breaking school rules.
Teenagers have easy access to multiple internet platforms. This is a well known fact. Almost everyone in this generation has a smartphone and if not, finding a computer at a local library would not be difficult. In either case internet access is widely available. Due to this, information is readily and instantly available to students. A study taken in 2019 by Maggie Fox and Erica Edwards states that teens between the age of 13 and 18 are spending up to 9 hours a day on the internet. Not to mention the astounding 6 hours spent just on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and many others. This easy access for teenagers to these sites, helps teens not only develop their own opinions, but to research opinions of their peers. The World Wide Web opens doors of access students and news media including information on issues affecting them personally. The limits of TV news schedules and local information, as it was in 1969 when Mary Beth Tinker was represented, have been erased. Students are now more inclined to speak out because of the nearly unlimited access of information.
Today there is an instant connection between students. There are also application sites such as: Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook which are particularly popular with teenagers allowing them access to any student throughout the country and their own personal story. Not only can students gain information but they can speak to one another, with no constraints as a result of distance. With the use of the internet, teenagers can not only search the web but can instantly talk to their friends and anyone around the globe. A study from Zephoria Digital Marketing states that there are 2.32 billion users monthly on Facebook. With this much input from this many people, students have an opportunity to develop their beliefs. And to learn from the mistakes and success of others. This has an impact on students free speech; since students can see current news and how it affects people. Students would be less afraid of their opinion being irelovent. Where the Tinker case unfolded over the course of four years, today, expression of free speech can connect students world wide with a cause bringing it to the forefront of awareness.
Because of issues like school violence, students are coming together in greater numbers than ever before. The typical stereotypes which separate groups within a school: jocks, nerds, brainy’s, are erased when a cause greater than popularity arises. It is not one particular group of students but all students who are at risk which has created a generation of kids more focused on community. With recent school support of community work, high schoolers seem to take more of an interest in helping around the community. This may be in part due to the internet. Teenagers can see extreme’s of what no community support may look like. This encourages kids to support their community. It also encourages schools to get behind these causes. With the schools support, students will be less afraid to speak out on what they feel should be done in the community. For example, on scholastic news.com Laura Leigh Davidson reports about thirteen year old Sean Nathan who throws voluntary birthday parties for homeless children. Had the Tinker case occured today, the reach and scope of the trial would not have been limited to the Des Moine area.
Bullying has also been on the rise in recent years. Students feel the pain of a classmate’s suicide, uniting them in another life-saving cause. Sites like, stopbullying.gov and organizations like Stomp Out Bullying are giving students access to help but also to a place where their views, their feelings, and their struggles can be heard. For example there was a bullying incident recently where a boy with Cerebral Palsy was thrown into a stream because of his disability. Despite this cruelty, twenty students walked out of school in protest to the actions of their classmates. Where student protests may have historically been condemned, we see in situations like this today, the students expressions of free speech is protected and furthered by the support of the school administration.
The school environment is better when the school supports the students. Because students and teachers are speaking out concerning causes that affect them both, school violence, bullying and the suicide epidemic, and vaccines, they have found more commonality in the day-to-day relationships between teachers and students. By encouraging students to speak freely on issues that affect everyone, the value of cooperation, can be both seen and felt during the average school day.
The prevalence of school shootings has created a camaraderie between teachers, administrators, and students. In the past teachers have united against government for things like pay raises. And they have united together against their administration concerning school policy. Teachers did not feel the sense of urgency in the students’ protests in 1969. But now we are seeing teachers united with students and administrations against a common enemy, school violence. It is because they are fighting together, united in a cause, that students are gaining more of hearing and encouraged to speak freely.
Student’s rights have evolved since Tinker v. Des Moines, free speech increasing because of social media, as well as school-wide participation in walkouts and student protests including school administration cooperating with students to discourage and/or reduce the frequency of breaking school rules. The increase of student rights to free speech has had it is impact on every aspect of the students daily environment and his or her relationships with students and teachers throughout the country. On March fourteenth of this year, a Montgomery Co. student group is planning a mass walkout for gun control. Using social media to spread their cause. Much like the first protest a year ago, the second walkout seeks to draw thousands of students out of classes to downtown Washington D.C. where they will observe seventeen minutes of silence — one for each death in the Parkland school shooting. But a larger question still remains: What will all this free speech amount to. While everyone believes there is value to free speech for students, expressing themselves as they have never had the opportunity before, and yet violence increases and suicide increases. Why call free speech good if the problems remain?
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