In America, Some School Boards Have Student Members

School boards are usually made up of elected members who make policy decisions about the local public school regions.

In the United States, some school boards have student representatives.

There are issues that have turned some school board meetings into places of disagreement. These issues include measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, how to teach about race and sexuality, and the place of religion in the classroom.

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Until recently, most school boards thought so Non-partisanship. But some school boards have been marred by political rifts. Some candidates for local, state and national office in the November elections have made school policy a key campaign issue.

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Conservative groups like Moms For Liberty and Project 1776 have spent millions to help elect conservative school board members. Liberal organizations also support candidates and causes. These include “A Side for Kids,” “Our Joint Action Fund Campaign,” and “Education Reform Now.” Teachers unions, such as the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, also spend money to support political candidates and causes.

FILE - Children holding signs against critical race theory stand on stage in front of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and address the crowd before signing HB7 at Mater Academy Charter Middle/Middle School in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., on April 22, 2022. they do  (Daniel) A. Varela/Miami Herald via AP, File)

FILE – Children holding signs against critical race theory stand on stage in front of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and address the crowd before signing HB7 at Mater Academy Charter Middle/Middle School in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., on April 22, 2022. they do (Daniel) A. Varela/Miami Herald via AP, File)

Debates about school policy can involve local and state officials, school board members, and parents. However, some districts allow school board members. They present to the board the opinion of the students about the decision of the board.

The National School Boards Association found that in at least 31 states, local districts can elect student council representatives. However, only 14 percent of the country’s 495 largest districts have student members. And only one state—Maryland—allows student representatives to have the same voting power as other school board members. Some student representatives are elected by students in their district. Others should apply for this position. Most are high school students and serve for one year.

VOA spoke with five student council members from Maryland, Wisconsin and Virginia. Each said they consider the student voice very important to school boards.

Zachary Novacek is a student council member in the Wauwatosa school district outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He said that school board members “don’t always see the whole school experience from one student perspective. And since we’re studying, it’s important for us to be part of the conversation.”

Janar Davis, who recently completed her term as a student representative for Portsmouth City Schools in Virginia, agrees. “That was my big thing [as a student representative]. Students have a voice.” As a member, he visited every school in the district and heard the concerns of students. Even before he became a board member, he supported legislation that would desegregate the school. uniform for the only school in Portsmouth that required them.

“In my opinion, an adult cannot speak for a student. Students can speak for students,” Davis said.

Some student members say they witnessed some arguments about school politics during their time on the same board.

Noah Blanken is a student representative for the Harford Schools in Northern Maryland. The county favored Donald Trump over Joe Biden 55 percent to 43 percent in the 2020 presidential election. She described the city as “the perfect mix of every single person demographic you can imagine”.

Blanken said many seniors from outside the district came to speak to the board at the meetings. He said that many have come out against critical race theory, which is an idea that places race at the center of attention. During public comments at the meetings, “groups come and they get really loud and rowdy,” he said.

Blanken said some people who have spoken to the board support cutting funding for low-income students, such as free school lunches. Blanken said she wants to be a board member to support low-income students, who make up a large percentage of Harford County’s students.

“These people come in and they argue that we should put all our money into science and math and reading and history. [to improve test scores] and take away all these other resources that these students do hopelessly needed And it’s really sad to see.”

Novacek said her district in Wauwatosa County recently adopted a new curriculum that introduces students to sex and sexuality. sex ideas. On Novacek’s first day on the board, he said a man told the council to “go home and look in the mirror and think if they think they’re moral people.”

Blanken said another issue that came before the board this fall involved the city’s mixed-gender locker rooms. A Maryland state senator wrote a letter to the school board opposing the policy.

“I am he was horrified…that boys can be in girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms and vice versa,” one woman said during the board’s public comments at the board meeting.

However, every student member said that the council members they serve with are cooperative and work well together.

“We have a lot of different people who are different view and opinions, but every person who sits on the board is for the well-being of the students,” Blanken said.

FILE - A Loudoun County School Board meeting was interrupted by the school board as the crowd refused to calm down, in Ashburn, Virginia, U.S. June 22, 2021. (REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein)

FILE – A Loudoun County School Board meeting was interrupted by the school board as the crowd refused to calm down, in Ashburn, Virginia, U.S. June 22, 2021. (REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein)

Zach McGrath said he believed student members were “influenced by the moderator conversation among board members because you don’t want to a suitable when it is in front of the student. You want to set a good example. “

McGrath sits on the school board of Anne Arundel County, Maryland. He said he has not seen any divisive debates during his time on the board.

Each student representative also said that other council members value their opinions and take what they have to say into account.

McGrath said that especially as a voting member in Maryland, “I’m treated a lot like I’m the senior in the boardroom. It just so happens that I represent the students.”

Emmett Jocelyn represents students in the Shorewood district in Wisconsin. Having a student council member is good for both the students and the school board, he said.

He said, “I feel like a lot of times the students are — they’re not aware of what’s going on at the district level. And I hope that I can connect the students and the school board and make both sides a little more familiar with each other. “

I’m Dan Novak.

And I am Faith Pirlo.

Dan Novak wrote this story for Learning English for VOA.

Quiz – Some school boards in America have student members

Quiz - Some school boards in America have student members

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Words in this story

regional – N. an area created by the government for a special purpose

Non-partisanship – adj. It is not related to a political party and is aimed at not taking a political side

perspective – N. a person’s way of thinking and understanding something

uniform – N. a special outfit that all members of a group wear to show that they are together

demographic – N. a quality, such as age, gender, or race, that exists in a group of people

hopelessly — adv. doing something sad or sad and having little hope

sex – N. the state of having two sexes

to see -n. a person’s way of thinking about something, an opinion

conversation – N. exchange ideas and opinions

suitable -n. uncontrolled expression of strong emotions

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