The Providence Student Union (PSU) launched their latest campaign, the Student Bill of Rights (SBOR), with music and dance in a windy Kennedy Plaza Friday afternoon.
The Student Bill of Rights, “aims to secure for students a safe, healthy, and engaging school environment,” according to the website. Jayleen Salcedo explained that the Student Bill of Rights is “a document that the PSU made up to defend the rights of all students in the city, of all students in the state and in the country. If you’re a student, a high school student a middle school student, and adult,- this affects you because this affects your city. Youth are the leaders of tomorrow, youth are the leaders of today. This is the biggest thing we’ve ever done, it took us years to make this happen, and we’re going to win this fight.”
The Student Bill of Rights is a living document, and is still being shaped and rewritten. As of now, the document contains 22 Articles, including, among others, Article 2, that claims a “right to education,” Article 12, that claims a “right to personal space and privacy” (including gender-inclusive bathrooms) and Article 19, a “right to free transportation,” regardless of the distance between the student’s home and school.
One of the larger concerns of the students advancing the Student Bill of Rights is the poor and deteriorating condition of Providence’s schools. “If not equipped with an adequate environment, students will not be in the mindset to reach their highest potential,” wrote one student, as read by Salcedo, “a crumbling school building is not fit to uplift our minds and encourage us to work hard. In fact, it sends the message that our education is not important.”
Recalling the election of Donald Trump, Tatiana Hall, a senior at Central High School, said that “as a young lesbian minority surrounded by other LGBT folks of color and other minorities, I had so much to be afraid of, especially after learning about Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence, and his belief in conversion therapy. Instead of conversion therapy, how about gender neutral bathrooms in our schools? … Having to choose between two gendered bathrooms has never felt right, because neither option pertains to me.
“I remember the countless times when in my school bathrooms I have been harassed or questioned about my gender expression by both students and teachers. And that’s just not right.”
Kiara read for Kafui, who wrote about many issues, including deteriorating schools, mental health care for students and the lack of a full time nurse in the schools. “When we get angry or upset there is no support, only punishment,” wrote Kafui.
Though nurses and counselors are not provided to students, police officers are. “At seven high schools in providence, there are specific police officers, paid by the district, patrolling the halls,” writes Kafui, “Some students have actually experienced being arrested and handcuffed in their own school. We don’t deserve this environment that criminalizes our peers.”
Audreys provided a poem/song.
Teneka said that it is her opinion, shared by her peers, that “police aren’t really our friends. I believe we need to replace cops in our schools with more counselors… if one gets angry, upset or ill, there is no support for us, we are only penalized… Article 11 of the Student Bill of Rights states that students have the right to feel safe on the school campus, having access to full time student support staff like nurses and more counselors and a learning environment free from police officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.”
You can sign a petition in support here.
You can contribute to the Providence Student Union here.
Article 1: Students have the right to know their rights
- Administrators must post a copy of the SBOR in every classroom.
- The SBOR should be easily accessible on the district website, and on individual school websites.
- Students should be informed of their rights in the SBOR at a beginning-of-year school assembly.
Article 2: Students have the right to education
- All youth residing in Providence have the right to public education and all of the rights, benefits, and privileges associated with it, regardless of their immigration status.
Article 3: Students have the right to provide input
- Students have the right to have their concerns taken seriously, without fear of punishment.
- Students should be able to give feedback and ask questions to teachers and administrators on major and minor decisions including, but not limited to the school budget, class selection process, school schedule, bathroom policies, dress codes, and other school rules and policies.
Article 4: Students have the right to access their grades and curriculum
- Students must have access to their grades, grading policies and criteria, and curriculum/syllabi of all classes they are registered for at all times.
- Teachers must keep Skyward, and all other online grading systems, updated and accessible to students in their classes.
Article 5: Students have the right to express their identity
- Students have the right to freedom of expression. Students have the right to express their identity, including their gender identity, and have it be respected and not policed.
- Students have the right to wear clothing that is comfortable for them without being discriminated against on the basis of sex or gender. Students who identify as women or girls should not be reprimanded for wearing tank tops whilst students who identify as men or boys are permitted to.
- Students have the right to have their gender identity respected in school, this includes but is not limited to, the use of preferred names and pronouns by teachers, staff and peers, and ensuring that transgender students can wear clothing consistent with their gender identity without interference, policing, or interrogation by other students, teachers, or administrators.
Article 6: Students have the right to be involved in making school decisions
- Students have the right to be represented in school decision-making and policy-forming bodies.
- Students have the right to be represented on the teams and committees in their school that determine school policies, beyond token representation.
- Students have the right to be included in decisions that will affect them every day including scheduling, class offerings, policies regarding freedom of movement and outdoor access, study halls and free time, school dances and other events.
- Students have the right to be duly informed of proposed changes to student responsibilities and academic policies.
Article 7: Students have the right to a diverse school staff
- Students have the right to demographically representative teaching staff and administrators at their school.
Article 8: Students have the right to hold school staff accountable
- Students have the right to report teachers and administrators for inappropriate behavior according to a clearly defined process.
Article 9: Students have the right to equitable academic resources
- Students have the right to well-stocked supplies in art classrooms, technology in the classroom, quality instruments and other music-related resources.
Article 10: Students have the right to diverse teaching and learning methods
- Schools must not rely on one teaching style. Since people learn in different ways, students have the right to pedagogically diverse classrooms. Teachers must provide students with opportunities for project-based learning, personalized learning that happens anytime, anywhere, and that is student-owned and competency-based.
- Students have the right to Ethnic Studies courses.
- Students should not be forced to take virtual or online courses to complete credit requirements. Online credit recovery courses remove collaboration between students, instruction time, and all interaction between teachers and students.
Article 11: Students have the right to feel safe on school campus
- Students have the right to access trained social service workers, guidance counselors, school nurses, and staff trained in conflict resolution.
- Detention, suspension, and calling parents to have them take their students from school should not be the only method used for conflict resolution.
- Students have the right to guaranteed access to aid when their health or security of person is threatened or damaged in any way. Nurses must be available to students at all times during the school day.
- Students have the right to schools free from police and ICE presence.
- Students have the right to freedom from harassment, hazing, or any other form of illegal discrimination or coercion. Students must not be coerced into giving money for a school contest, challenge, etc.
Article 12: Students have the right to personal space and privacy
- The right to have their property and personal space respected and the right to not be searched unless there is proof that they are an immediate threat to themselves, students, teachers, or staff.
- The right to have their personal information such as grades and personal issues protected against improper disclosure.
- Teachers and administrators must not touch students without their consent.
- Students have the right to a minimum of one (1) well-kept and operational gender-inclusive bathroom and changing room in their school not including the nurse’s office. This space must be accessible at all times except when at capacity of occupants.
- Student have the right to private spaces for religious practice such as daily prayer.
- Students have the right to a secure, operational locker that they are allowed to access during the day.
- Students can not be forced to work in groups with other students if they are not comfortable. There should always be the option of working individually on an assignment.
Article 13: Students have the right to safe, comfortable, and healthy school buildings
- Our public school buildings are old and falling apart. Broken floor and ceiling tiles, peeling paint, broken water fountains and bathroom stalls missing doors and toilet seats are all too common. Students have the right to an education in buildings that are renovated and safe.
- Students have the right to comfortable spaces that provide proper and adequate temperature, air ventilation, lighting, clean water, electricity, and internet services.
- Students have the right to be free from overcrowded classrooms.
Article 14: Students have the right to utilize technology
- Students have the right to utilize technology such as phones, laptops, computers, tablets, etc. at all times for educational purposes without fear of confiscation or suspension
- Students have the right to make emergency phone calls from their own cell phone.
Article 15: Students have the right to healthy food
- Students have the right to healthy food choices at school.
- Rules regarding bringing outside food and drink into the building must be applied in a non-discriminatory manner, these rules must apply equally to students, teachers, and staff.
- Students have the right to access vending machines during break times.
- Students have the right to clean, drinking water throughout the day and throughout the building.
Article 16: Students have the right to a transparent school budget
- Each school must provide information about their budget online in which the students can identify where their school’s money is going and why.
- Each school’s discretionary budget must be decided upon using participatory budget methods and include input from the the student body.
Article 17: Students have the right to extra-curricular activities
- Students have the right to form and participate in extracurricular groups, clubs, and teams. These clubs cannot be dismantled unless extra-curricular group presents a threat to the safety of students.
- All groups and/or clubs must have equal access to meeting spaces, the PA system, school periodicals, bulletin board space, etc.
- If an adult advisor is available and willing to supervise, student groups should be allowed to meet before or after school, and during break times.
Article 18: Students have the right to break times
- Students have the right to access the restroom as they have the need and utilize other break times built into their schedule. Restroom access should not be denied upon request from a student.
Article 19: Students have the right to free transportation
- Students, regardless of the distance they live from school, have the right to free transportation to and from school throughout the year.
Article 20: Students have the right to due process
- Students have the right to access a system of due process in instances in which they face suspension or expulsion from school.
- In cases of long-term suspension or expulsion:
- The right to due process in disciplinary proceedings is applicable in all instances where the behavior of the student is being evaluated for possible suspension or expulsion. The student has the right to be fully informed about his/her alleged breach of behavior and must be provided with an opportunity to respond to such charges in front of not only administrators but a jury of their peers (if wanted).
- In cases not involving long-term suspension or expulsion:
- Students have the right to an informal hearing involving a combination of appropriate groups including the student, parent/guardian(s), teacher(s), building administrators and a jury of at least 3 of the students peers (if the student deems appropriate). During the hearing, the student and parent/guardian hear the charges, evidence and consequences. The student tells his/her side of the story.
Article 21: Students have the right to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment
- Students have the right to know why they are getting punished, and their punishment must pertain to students’ well-being, not used as a tactic to maintain control
- Students should not be punished with isolation, unless they present an immediate danger to others
- Physical activity must not be withdrawn as punishment, in accordance with PPSD Health & Wellness Policy
Article 22: Students have the right to English Language Learner services
- Students and families have the right to translation and interpreter services upon request. Schools must have interpreters available to families at all times during the school day
- Students and their families have the right to decide whether or not English Language Learner classes are appropriate or needed