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NCTE Position Statement

Resolution on Students' Right of Expression

2004 NCTE Annual Business Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana


Teachers at all levels have learned that developing students' competence and confidence in writing requires encouraging them in informal, expressive, exploratory writing that can lead to more polished work.

Recognizing students as developing writers means acknowledging that these first efforts are prone to error and misjudgment regarding both language and audience.

In the past three years, a number of incidents (e.g., San Jose, CA; Walnut Creek, CA; Rio Rancho, NM; St. Paul, MN) involving students' written and multi-media expression has resulted in their expulsion from school, their arrest, their incarceration, and, sometimes, sanctions against their peers and teachers.

As educators we understand the need to provide for the safety of all students as well as the welfare and needs of individual students. Be it therefore


Resolved, that the National Council of Teachers of English create a task force charged with developing a guideline on troubling and difficult student expression that would

  • reaffirm the rights of expression by students at all levels in a variety of media;
  • acknowledge the need for educators to develop competencies in responding to such expression in ways that ensure safety, welfare, and respect for students and others; and
  • encourage educators and school authorities to develop written procedures for logical and prudent interventions when student expression may warrant an intervention.

Be it further resolved that NCTE collect and disseminate exemplary policies and processes school leaders have developed as reasonable responses to troubling and difficult expression; and

     that NCTE, in concert with school leaders, legislators, and policymakers, provide professional development that supports students’ right of expression in the context of school safety.

This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.

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