Teenagers May Not Have The “Right” To Be Rebellious

Maya Sherne, Online Editor

Growing up, some children look up to police officers as their heroes, the men and women who protect them from harm and who keep their community safe.  However, as these children get older, and the desire to test limits increases, anti-police sentiments become more common.  Teenagers no longer look to the police as their heroes, but more as their enemies; the men and women who cause unnecessary disturbance and who take advantage of our adolescence.

The teen perception of risk differs greatly from that of an adult, and it is that uncertainty, the venture into the unknown, that makes risky behavior so enjoyable for teenagers.  Because of this, most teenagers, regardless of any outside factors will experiment in some kind of risky behavior during high school.  In fact, according to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, a child who reaches age 21 without smoking, drinking or using other drugs is virtually certain never to do so in their life.

With our risky behavior in mind, school and police officials take certain precautions when it comes to teenagers; this is understandable when you consider that four of every five children and teen arrestees in state juvenile justice systems are under the influence of alcohol or drugs while committing their crimes, are arrested for a drug or alcohol offense, test positive for drugs or have admitted to having substance abuse problems.

Now by no means do all students partake in risky behavior, but it seems that the majority of police and school officials go into situations thinking they do.  In circumstances where a student is accused of something that they have not committed, it is important to know their rights.

In the United States, children under the age of 18 have the same “basic” rights as adults.  As teenagers, we are protected under the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment grants the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The police have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution and to not violate your rights; nevertheless, teenagers are often unaware of their rights, and being at a young and impressionable age, rarely oppose police requests.

Denying a police officer’s request to search you or your possessions is not an admission of guilt, it’s merely you practicing your basic American rights.  However, some police officers take your non-compliance as justifiable suspicion.

For instance, if a student is pulled over for a speeding ticket and later protests the ticket in court, the judge will rarely rule that the police officer was wrong; their word and “honesty” is taken over the civilians.

Police officers must be held to a higher standard than ordinary citizens, not only because they represent the government and the criminal justice system, but because they are supposed to be role models for their community.

In contrast, students do not have these “basic” rights at school. If a school has “reasonable suspicion” that a student is carrying drugs, weapons or involved in a criminal activity, school officials can search the student’s backpack and locker.  However, all “reasonable suspicion” means is that they have a specific reason to justify their search.

Students can be stopped and questioned by school officials on school property even without reasonable suspicion, as long as they do not do so in a discriminatory or harassing way.

These rules are put in place at public schools to ensure the safety of both the students and the faculty; however, the almost unlimited power of school officials creates a hostile and unpredictable school environment.

As teenagers, it is in our nature to want to rebel against authority, to try new, potentially dangerous things and test the limits of our community. We learn from our experiences, and that is the only way we can improve. The authority figures in our community take serious measures to ensure the safety of our community, so teenagers simply rebel with caution.