What is the timeline of teens' rights in the United States?


  • Early America: Child welfare was considered an entirely private, family affair. Children often worked, including as indentured servants.
  • 1832: New England labor unions condemn child labor.
  • 1836: Massachusetts passes the first child labor law, which required children younger than age 15 to spend at least three months a year in school.
  • 1875: A shocking case of child abuse in New York City leads to the creation of the first child welfare organization.
  • 1899: Illinois sets up the first juvenile court system, which had the express purpose of determining suitable custody and care arrangements for children outside their parents' home.
  • 1920: All but three states have now set up governmental child welfare systems.
  • 1935: Social Security Act of 1935 creates some child welfare payments to poor families.
  • 1938: Fair Labor Standards Act establishes minimum work ages and limits children's working hours.
  • 1960s: Various state/federal child welfare programs implemented to provide financial assistance to poor families for the sake of the children.
  • 1969: The Supreme Court holds that the First Amendment protects students' political speech (Tinker v. Des Moines).
  • Late 20th century: All 50 states implement some way for minors to emancipate themselves from their parents.
  • 1975: The Supreme Court holds that once a state offers public education for all children, it can't deprive children of access to it without due process of law (Goss v. Lopez).
  • 1980s: A trio of Supreme Court cases limits the First and Fourth Amendment rights of students: Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, which allows schools to censor student newspaper content; New Jersey v. T.L.O., which states that students have a lower expectation of privacy while in school and so personal belongings can be searched; and Bethel School District #43 v. Fraser, which says that students don't have First Amendment right to make obscene speeches.
  • Early 21st century: The Supreme Court continues to limit students' rights. In Sante Fe Independent School District v. Doe, students don't have a First Amendment right to lead prayer at school, and in School District #92 of Pottowa County v. Earls, random drug testing of students in extracurricular activities doesn't violate the Fourth Amendment.

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