Following are ways to get students on school boards, written for the SoundOut Students on School Boards Toolbox. These are practical, purpose-filled steps to take action and get students on school boards. You can take action right now!
How can students get on school boards?
- Before You Start: Work out exactly what you are looking for in having a student on the school board. Outline the specifics of your proposal, compare it to other existing school boards with students, and determine what you are seeking to accomplish. Run your ideas by others for input. Be sure to do your research.
- Become an advocate: Voice the need for it. Whether as a school board member, student, parent, or active community member, make the idea heard. The formation of student board members can start with one person’s idea and blossom. If you are an adult, go to the school board. As a student, go to your student government and recommend that the idea of student school board membership should be brought to the attention of the community.
- Spread the Word: Talk with your friends, teachers, principal, and other decision-makers in schools and throughout your community. Build support and train students about student engagement, why it matters, and how they can experience it more. Share useful websites, materials, and other info with people who care or need to know.
- Get Going: Write a letter to the members of the school board explaining why you believe the school board should consider adding students.
- Work Within the System: Bring your proposals to your school’s student council. It would be more influential to say that your proposal has the support of the student body if the student council endorses your ideas. However, if they do not support your proposal, move on to the next step.
- Seek Adult Allies: Try talking to your school’s principal about your ideas and request his or her support. Your school’s principal might gladly support your ideas, but on the other hand, he or she may be completely against having a student. If you obtain the support of your school’s principal, seeking the support of your school’s teachers will be much easier. Begin seeking the support of teachers by first asking the teachers who know you well. As you get more support, ask other teachers within the school.
- Move Forward: Ask all the administrators and teachers in favor of your proposal to sign a petition that outlines your proposal. If you have the support of your school’s administrators, be sure to have them sign the petition before any teachers. Teachers will feel more comfortable signing a document if they see their bosses’ signatures on it as well.
- Build the Network: After you have established a solid base of support at your school, contact the student councils and principals from other high schools in your school district to gain support and popularity for your proposal.
- Spread the News: As you gather support, write a simple press release outlining your efforts and the amount of support thus far. Give a copy of the press release to your school’s newspaper, and send it all of the local media outlets by fax or email. Be sure to include newspapers, television stations, and radio stations of all sizes.
- Get Community Involved: Parents and community members can be included in deciding how student board members will be chosen, what kind of activities and events they would be involved in and at what level they would be permitted to participate.
- Look to the Treetops: Contact local and state politicians explaining your efforts. Be sure to ask for their support. Although these government officials have little control over the school board, it is a good idea to get their endorsements.
- Speak the Truth: Research the process in obtaining formal speaking time at school board meetings. Make sure that you are familiar with the rules of your board, such as the amount of time you are given to speak. Be sure to have enough copies of your documents for every member of the school board. If you cannot obtain formal speaking time, speak during the public comment session.
- Reach the Grassroots: Ask students, teachers, and principals in support of your proposal to attend the school board meeting with you. Be sure that the local media outlets are informed of the date, time, and location of the meeting. The goal of getting students on boards is to encourage them to be active parents in education. That means remembering to include them in the planning process. Have school assemblies or homeroom presentations to gather student opinions and ideas.
- Write a Letter or Email: You’ll want to appeal to the people in positions of authority. Do that by writing a formal letter or email.
Dear School Board Members:
As a student, I believe that it is necessary for [Name of School System] to implement the idea of creating non-voting seats on the school board for several students from the district.
I feel that it is necessary for students to have representation in the decisions that affect their education. Students will feel like they are an integral part of making these decisions. By giving a qualified student a non-voting position on the board, youth will be empowered with direct representation and provided an opportunity to experience actual, legal policymaking first-hand. Their knowledge of the local government would also be greatly enhanced.
By creating a direct dialogue between the student body of [Name of County or City] and the school board parents and students will be better informed of important school policy decisions; the school administration will have a source of regular comprehensive feedback from the students affected by their policies; and a spirit of self-education on the behalf of students would be immediately fostered. A non-voting position on the school board would allow students to learn the process that goes into improving education, thus encouraging further interaction between the community and the school board.
I strongly encourage you to consider this proposal as it directly benefits the school board,school administration, teachers, parents, and students. Thank you for you consideration.
- Write a Sample Proposal: Write a concrete proposal that details of the position. You might include the following:
Reasons for Students on School Boards
- Students will be empowered with direct representation.
- Students will be provided an opportunity to experience actual, legal policymaking firsthand.
- Students will have an increased knowledge of local government systems.
- It teaches students that local government is often the level that has the most impact on daily lives.
- Students will learn the process that goes into improving education, thus encouraging further interaction between the community and the school board.
- By creating a direct dialogue between the student body of [Name of County or City] and the school board, parents and students will be better informed of important school policy decisions.
- School administrators will have a source of regular comprehensive feedback from the students affected by their policies.
- School board members are not as involved in all of the issues that face students every day, unlike students who sit in class for nearly 8 hours a day.
- Students often feel more comfortable sharing personal information with other students than with adults they may not know.
- There are countless school boards across the nation that have students on board. See the examples throughout this publication.
Share a Possible Selection Process
The Board of Education would be ultimately responsible for deciding how a student is selected. A possible selection method, however, is to make the project a coordinated effort among all [#] high school student councils. The president or other appointed delegate from each student council would sit on a student panel. This student panel would then elect one person to be the district’s student school board member. The students would attend the school board meetings, share their opinions and the opinions of other students, and vote up or down on all topics. He or she would proceed to report to the student panel after the meeting.
Detail the Possible Responsibilities
The student panel could meet together before a school board meeting. The students on the school board would gather ideas and feedback from the delegates concerning agenda items. They would then present these opinions to the school board.
- After the school board meeting, the students would either have another meeting or contact all of the delegates by some means of communication.
- Be a liaison between the school board and the student councils of the [County or City] high schools.
- Represent the delegates of the [#] high school student councils and his or her peers, just as a school board member would represent his constituents.
- Other duties that the school board deems appropriate for students to carry out.
Go To School Boards
- Present Your Idea: Presentation is highly important. When you present your proposal to faculty, the student council, and especially the school board, you must remain confident. If you have been invited to speak at a school board meeting, be sure to dress in slacks, a dress shirt, and possibly a tie for men, and a blouse and skirt or dress for women. Try not to talk fast, but speak loudly and clearly so that everyone can hear you. Be sure that you are prepared to answer anyone’s questions.
- Always Be Prompt: You should arrive a few minutes early to the board meeting if you have never been to a meeting before. Allow yourself enough time to arrive on time while taking traffic or unforeseen incidents into consideration. If you cannot show up for some reason, notify the secretary of the school board as soon as possible. If it is until after the school board meeting has taken place, write a letter of apology and explanation to the school board.
- Get Some Press: If possible, it is a good idea to inform the press of your efforts. Write a press release and fax or email copies to your local newspaper, local TV news stations, local radio stations, and even your local AP bureau.
Students on School Boards Toolkit
- Students on School Boards Toolkit Homepage
- Students on School Boards Fact Sheet
- Terms Related to Students on School Boards
- Activities for Students on School Boards
- Rationale for Students on School Boards
- How to Get Students on School Boards
- Options for Student Voice on School Boards
- Should School Boards Elect or Select Student Members?
- Barriers to Students on School Boards
- Quotes about Students on School Boards
- Critical Questions about Students on School Boards
- State Directory of Laws Affecting Students on School Boards
- State Directory of Students on School District Boards
- State Directory Students on District School Boards
- Directory of Students on State Boards of Education
- Sources for the Students on School Boards Toolkit
- Publications about Students on School Boards
- Frequently Asked Questions about Students on School Boards (FAQs)
- Students On School Boards Workshops
- SoundOut Guide to Students on School Boards, 2nd Edition [PDF]
Students on School Boards in Canada
- Directory of Canadian Province Laws Affecting Students on School Boards
- Guide to Students on Canadian School Boards [PDF]
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- United States Student Voice Directory
- Student Involvement in Education Agencies
- Intro to Student Tokenism