Should School Boards Elect or Select Student Members?

This is the SoundOut Students On School Boards Toolkit by Adam Fletcher. It includes research, examples and more. SoundOut offers professional development and training! For more information contact us.

This article explores different ways to put students on school boards. It shares details about which states use which process, and what the outcomes can be.

How should students be chosen for school boards?

How do students get on board? When they are considering roles for students on school boards, policy-makers should consider whether school boards should elect or select student members. Here is a write up on what some states do, written for the SoundOut Students on School Boards Toolbox.

According to a 2012 survey by the National School Board Association provided to SoundOut, states vary widely for whether students are elected or selected to serve on local school boards.

The following states responded that they do have students on district boards, and they shared how they get there.

State

Elected Or Selected?

AlaskaSelected—Appointed by the local school board.
ArizonaElection then selection—Student body president.
ArkansasBoth—Process determined district-by-district.
CaliforniaBoth—Process determined district-by-district.
ConnecticutSelected—Principal appoints.
DelewareElection then selection—Student body president.
FloridaSelected—By the local school board.
IowaSelected—By the local school board.
KansasNo response.
MarylandBoth—Process determined district-by-district.
MassachusettsBoth—Process determined district-by-district.
MichiganNo response.
MinnesotaBoth—Process determined district-by-district.
New JerseyBoth—Under 18, selected; over 18, elected.
New YorkBoth—Under 18, selected; over 18, elected.
North CarolinaBoth—Process determined district-by-district.
OregonBoth—Process determined district-by-district.
PennsylvaniaElection then selection—Student body president.
South CarolinaNo response.
TennesseeBoth—Process determined district-by-district.
UtahBoth—Process determined district-by-district.
VermontBoth—Process determined district-by-district.
VirginiaElected by the local high school.
WisconsinSelected—Superintendent chooses.
WyomingBoth—Process determined district-by-district.

Examples

In Maryland, generally, student representatives from each secondary school gather in a kind of mini-election convention and put forth three names for consideration by the local board and/or superintendent. As many as seven counties have student members on board in some fashion.

Students in New Jersey who are under 18 serve in an advisory capacity that is appointed for a one-year term. They have no voting representation. Students who are 18 years old or olde r and meet the voting requirements are elected for a three-year term. They may vote on anything not directly relating to their own school.

In New York, students who are over 18 years old and meet other minimum requirements can be officially elected. Students who are under 18 are appointed as ex-officio representatives, typically with non-voting status. The selection of a student representative is a bit complicated. He/she can be identified by a variety of methods, must be recommended by the superintendent and ratified by a majority of the board. The student must be a senior who has attended a high school in the district for at least the last two years.

North Carolina local boards mostly select the class president at local high schools to serve as a student representative on the school board. In Oregon, most local boards appoint student representatives.

Students on School Boards Toolkit

Students on School Boards in Canada

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School Boards of the Future by Adam Fletcher

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