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Teachers, the Students Right to Write, and the Law

248jpgWe know that to write well, students have to write. We also know that the process of writing, in the words of Anne Lamott, allows for “shitty first drafts.” In fact, we often cannot write well without allowing ourselves these lousy first attempts to get ourselves started and on which we can build a good piece of writing. We know these things, but our students often don’t. And, of course, that’s where we teachers come in.

Students need our guidance to learn, understand, and employ the responsibilities inherent in writing. They need our help “to assume ownership of both the writing process and the final product,” as the NCTE Beliefs about the Students’ Right to Write  notes.

In most educational institutions writing that contains references to violent acts or harm of others or self is suspect and educators are legally bound to report it. Students should expect teachers to uphold the law in reporting all instances of violent writing. But to help our students (and ourselves), as the NCTE policy goes on to say,

“Teachers should explicitly teach the distinction between violent writing and violence in writing…[In fact] When writing for publication, students should be … taught how to write material that is not obscene, libelous, or substantially disruptive of learning throughout the school.

[But] Administrators should work in collaboration with students who write for school publications such as school newspapers or literary magazines and, within the limits of state law or district/school policies, should avoid prior review.

[Most of all,] Districts should encourage the development and adoption of policies that support student writers as they learn to make choices in their writing that express their intent while still maintaining ethical and legal boundaries.”