Does a student have the right to not speak?
It was winter and I was getting ready to get breakfast at the neighborhood deli down the block from my school, before school started. A couple of fellow classmates came along to eat as well. Apparently there was some type of a previous altercation between these group of students and the store owner.
As I waited for the breakfast to be prepared, the students started getting into a loud verbal disagreement with the store owner who had decided not to serve them. The students reaction was the throwing of store food around the floors of the deli and the smashing of store product with an umbrella.
I was worried that I would be grouped together with these students because we all attend the same school and had all left at the same time from the store.
Back at school, to my surprise, I was called into the deans office. There sitting in the office were two officers, the deli owner, the dean, the principal and the group of students involved in the deli incident. "One by one we will ask who was involved in this chaos," said the dean.
I knew the faces and names of everyone involved but as I stood there listening to the students give there side of the story I thought it would be best to not speak. For one thing I had no involvement so why should I get involved? And secondly I just wanted a breakfast sandwich why would I have to sell out and name the people I see and speak to every day?
"Talia, what was your involvement and what do you have to say for yourself?" the dean asked. I had explained that all I wanted was breakfast, and after my breakfast was given to me I had nothing else left to see. It was none of my business. I did not want to get involved. For some reason those seemed to be the words that stirred the room because the students were asked to leave while I was supposed to stay behind.
"I plead the fifth," I mumbled under my breathe to one of the cops who laughed and said i understand. Now although my only knowledge of pleading the fifth was on an episode of law and order when a defendant pleaded the fifth on the witness stand, I now understand the strength of my words. As I look back on the situation my rights were violated.
The owner told the dean that I had no involvement but I was witness to everything that happened. From then on the question the dean asked changed into a statement. I was to write a statement in full detail explaining my involvement and what i saw or I was to be suspended. Is this fair?
As I look back I see that the amendments do affect me and were violated a number of times. I was given detention for not speaking up. Not only did that affect me physically because I had places to be it also affected me mentally because I now see that I do have rights that I wish I had known of before. I now see that I could have made a case against the dean who threatened my education for not tattle-telling.
As a citizen, I have rights and they affect me in situations every day because they can be the difference between being right or wrong and helping prevent unnecessary disciplinary action.