A Discussion on #DueProcess With the Students of ISLI

As a part of Student Voice’s new Monday night programming structure, we will conclude each month with a transcription of a virtual tour stop. Virtual tour stops are roundtable discussions led by a member of the Student Voice team with the purpose of encouraging and empowering students to think critically about their educational experience.

This month, we had the opportunity to sit down with the leadership team of the Iowa Student Learning Institute (ISLI) to discuss a student’s right to Due Process. ISLI is a non-profit organization run by students, for students with the mission of revolutionizing Iowa’s education system through the use of student voice. Here is what they had to say.

SV: Does your school inform you of the rights you have as a student? If so, how? If not, why do you think that is?

JS: “No. In 8th grade there was a teacher who I wasn’t a fan of. I went and wrote a blog post about her, which I know was a bad idea and someone turned me in for it. I was placed into in school suspension for two days. I didn’t really feel like I was being treated fairly because everything took place outside of school grounds. And in all honesty, there was nothing specific in the blog post about her. It was all a very general rant. But, I think the school and the administrators were very misinformed when it comes to student rights because there was a similar case in Colorado where a student also wrote a blog post about a teacher and was threatened to being suspended or expelled but he took the case to court and ended up winning because the school doesn’t really have much control in what a student does outside of it. Looking back at my school, it didn’t really seem as if the administrators really knew how to properly handle my situation and what made it worse is that the school decided to use it as a learning example…In my social studies class, we had a mock trial day and the prompt/situation was about a student who wrote a blog post about a teacher. Now I don’t know if this was intentional or a coincidence but I was selected to be the person who wrote the blog post in this “situation” but it was really embarrassing. The moral of my story is that school administrators have to know and understand exactly what rights a student has.

MB: “At the beginning of the school year, we are given the student handbook and we all have a copy of it but not many people read it. If we do read it and we confront a teacher or administrator about something that was highlighted in the handbook, they often get angry. For example, the handbook states that students have the right to eat outside as long as we don’t leave school grounds. So we were eating in the parking lot near our cars and a teacher was really upset that we were eating in the parking lot. But when we showed her the handbook, she was genuinely surprised and somewhat angry that we were actually reading the handbook and knew what our rights were during school.”

ISLI Leaders Speaking With Iowa Students

AP: “I know at my school there is a handbook and occasionally teachers and the administration will reference it but we have never actually seen it for ourselves. So if there is a dress code violation or something and we ask to see the handbook, we aren’t aloud to look at it….they say it’s ‘only for administration and teachers’ so in that sense we don’t even know what rights they are giving us or not giving us.”

HH: “I don’t really understand why rights are being withheld from students if they aren’t really even created with their best interests in mind. I feel like every student should be able to know what they can and can’t do and then be able to defend themselves with a handbook if needed. It’s just not that hard.”

SV: When did you realize that you had a voice in your education?

JS: “My freshman year I was asked to serve on the school improvement committee where they choose two students from each grade and they meet with members of the community to discuss anything from test scores to construction. It was really the first time I realized that I could use my voice to make a difference. But this was also confirmed once I joined ISLI because it was the first time I realized that students all across the world could use their voice and make a huge impact.”

RL: “In 7th grade, my teacher, had originally done a project with an 8th grade class and the class went to the RISE conference (hosted by ISLI). When i was there it was really the first time that I saw that kids could really do something through their own power. That they didn’t need an adult to help hold their hand along the way but they recognized that kids are actually the real changemakers in this world.”

IC: “I think when we talk about finding your internal and external voice, that my internal voice developed before my external voice. I also think that there was a large delay and I never really started sharing my voice or expressing my opinions until about 7th grade when one of my teachers brought us to a statewide technology conference to present about blogging in the classroom. And that was really the first time I had an audience that wanted to hear my opinion and wanted to hear what I had to say as a student. We, as an organization, have used that same kind of model of helping other students find their voice through our organization’s model of ‘motivate, ideate, and change’ to really help motivate students to understand that their voice really does matter and they should ideate and come up with a solution and the third and final step would be to change and do something about that would be to change and make a difference.”

SV:What advice would you give to students who are struggling to find their voice?

HH: “I think we are really lucky to be in this generation where we have a lot of ways to connect through the use of technology and what not. So I think the best way to find and use your voice is to connect with other people. A lot of people don’t realize that they can utilize the various connections that they make for good. To make a serious change.”

IC: “What is unique about Iowa schools is that if you are outside of the metro area of our capital, all the schools stick to doing what they know how to do best. They stick to the traditional model and it is hard for many students to find the right platform to effectively make their voices heard. Connect with people on social media, become involved in the school, join clubs, volunteer in the community and you will find what you are passionate about with the hopes that you can have a goal of something to work towards.”

Interested in hosting a virtual tour stop at your school? Reach out to Max Richter, Director of Programming for Student Voice by email max@stuvoice.org.