Monday, September 11, 1989

Youth Bill of Rights

When I was a teenager living in central Florida and was first becoming politicized, I fell in with a group of radical young folks who were active in the National Child Rights Alliance. I was only briefly involved in this organization, but I still carry around a copy of their organizing document, the “Youth Bill of Rights.” Since NCRA went into hibernation several years back, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find this document online, so I thought I’d go ahead and post it here for posterity. It’s interesting looking back on this statement of principles, more than ten years after I came across it and nearly twenty years since it was first written.

Perhaps some young person who stumbles across my blog while searching for the cliff notes to Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, & Steel will be inspired to something higher than just cheating on their homework…

Youth Bill of Rights

We believe that civil and human rights apply to all people—including children and youth. We will work to establish and defend these rights for young people.

The Right to Liberty

No youth or child shall be forced to live in any household against their will - this includes biological as well as foster and adoptive households. No person shall be forced into marriage. No child or youth shall be institutionalized against their will without due process rights. The right to freedom from forced institutionalization includes the right to freedom from military conscription.

The Right to Safety

All young people shall have the right to safe haven on request, without fear of criminal charges. We support sanctuary for youth.

The Right to Survival

All youth shall have the right to adequate food, shelter, medical care and a healthy environment. We support a free national health care system for children, which is not dependent on parental income or parental permission. We support full employment and living wage rights for workers, and a guaranteed income for those unable to work, so that families are not torn apart by poverty. Pay differentials based on age shall be abolished. All young persons shall have the right to emergency services including welfare services regardless of the status of their guardians.

The Right to Education

All young people shall have the right to a free education-including college and technical schools - at public expense. Programs must be free of cultural, racial or gender bias in all respects.

The Right of Free Speech

All young people shall have the right to free speech. This includes both in personal expression and in school-based and public media.

The Right of Non-Discrimination

We support all efforts to end curtailment of the potential or self-esteem of any youth. No child shall be discriminated against on the basis of age, race, gender, language, country of origin, the economic or marital status of parents, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or physical or mental limitations or differences.

The Right of Free Choice

No youth or child shall be either forced or forbidden to choose a religious or political affiliation, philosophy, or creed.

The Right to an Attorney

All young persons shall have the right to legal representation whereby the attorneys act as an attorney for – rather than guardians of - their clients.

-National Child Rights Alliance, adopted September, 1989