Critical Questions about Students on School Boards

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.

It’s important to ask critical questions in any activity claiming to infuse Meaningful Student Involvement. There are many questions to ask before engaging students on school boards. Following are some of them.

Critical Questions for Students on School Boards

  • Does the state or district mission include the preparation of democratic citizens? Do policymakers believe it is their role to support this mission?
  • Do policymakers understand the connect between student engagement and Meaningful Student Involvement? Are they committed to them both?
  • Are policy makers willing to adjust their culture and procedures to make students feel welcome and supported? Are adults willing for students to engage on the merits, even when it conflicts with their own views?
  • What are the legal restrictions on student involvement in policymaking? If students may not vote, are there other ways policymakers can include student voice in decision-making?
  • Is creating two student positions on the board of education the only approach? Could combining approaches successfully involve more students, such as an advisory group or having an equal number of student and adults positions on the school board, provide students more valuable an experience in genuine decision-making?
  • What kind of training will student decision-makers need to serve effectively? What kind of training will adult decision-makers need to support student decision-makers and get the most out of student involvement?
  • Will meetings be scheduled at times and locations that will allow student representatives to participate?
  • Does the policy provide students with the support they need to be successful, including training, staff support, mentor(s) and formal and informal opportunities to ask questions and communicate with their adult colleagues?
  • Does the policy ensure student members accurately reflect the interests and concerns of the student body, and effectively communicate policymakers’ decisions to the student body?

What questions would YOU add to this list? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section!

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Summary of Students on District School Boards

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 is a summary of students on district school boards, written for the SoundOut Students on School Boards Toolbox.

In 2009, in the United States 24 states had specific laws addressing roles for students on district school boards, while three states have no related laws at all. Eight had laws that sort of addressed the issue, while the remaining 11 states did not respond to the question.

The National School Board Association sporadically conducts a survey of their 50 member organizations across the United States to find out how students on school boards are doing. In 2009, they asked them some of the following questions.

They found that students in seven responding states could potentially vote on district school boards, while in 27 states student members of school boards could not vote at all, if they actually sat on school boards in those states. One state respondent wasn’t sure and the remaining 15 states didn’t reply to this question.

When asked whether the vote of student members would be limited to student-specific issues, five states reported that it was, while three states said it was not, if they had students on school boards. 26 states replied that this question was not applicable, probably because their student representatives cannot vote at all if they had student representatives at all. One state wasn’t sure.

Finally, 24 states replied that student members’ role was only as advisors with no real authority. 11 replied that students were treated as regular members of the board.

Following are details of how states answered each question.

KEY  
  • State = States that responded to the survey
  • Law? = Are there laws affecting student representatives?
  • Voting? = Can students vote as full members?
  • Limited? = Are students’ votes limited to student-specific issues?
  • Age? = How old do you have to be?
  • Advisory? = Are students members, or are they representatives, or on Advisory Committees?

Arizona

Alaska

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

Hawai’i

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington

West Virginia

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Directory of State Laws Affecting Students on School Boards

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 page identifies whether it is legal to involve students in 39 states. If a state is not listed, we do not currently have information. Please share your thoughts, ideas, information, concerns and other comments below.

What laws affect students on school boards?

Engaging students on school boards does not require legal permission; however, many state and district school boards use laws as a reason whether or not to involve students. This page is a state-by-state summary of laws affecting students on district and state school boards, and was compiled for the SoundOut Students on School Boards Toobox.

The practice of relying on laws can ensure rigor and sustainability in students’ roles.

 

STATE

Summary of the law(s)
Alaska Alaska has two nonvoting students on their state school board. Title 4 of the Alaska Administrative Code requires the Alaska State Board of Education & Early Development to include two nonvoting public high school student members. Students are required to have two years of high school remaining at the time of appointment and serve a two-year term. During the first year, the selected student serves as advisory member-elect, and may participate in the work of the board, including debate and deliberation, but may not cast an advisory vote. During the second year, the advisory member-elect becomes the advisory member. The student advisory member may participate in board deliberation and debate, and casts a non-binding advisory vote, which is recorded but is not counted in determining the disposition of board matters. Students are eligible for appropriate state reimbursement. Each year the Alaska Association of School Governments may nominate three to five students for consideration to serve on the State Board. The State Board then chooses one of the AASG nominated students to serve as student advisory member-elect.
Arizona Students can join district and state level school boards; however, they cannot legally vote in Arizona.
California Students in California can join district and state level school boards. Students can legally vote. According to the California Education Code 33000.5, the Governor is required to appoint one student to serve on the California Board of Education with full voting rights.  The student must be a high school senior enrolled in a public school during his or her term.  The student serves a one-year term.  Students are eligible for appropriate state reimbursement, and California offers a $100 stipend for each day the student spends on official business.
Colorado In Colorado, students cannot legally join district school boards or vote on them.
Connecticut Students can legally join district and state school boards; they cannot legally vote on either in Connecticut. In 1998, the Connecticut General Statutes Title 10, Chapter 163 was amended to require the Commissioner to appoint a State Student Advisory Council on Education (SSACE). The legislation states that the Commissioner must ensure the council membership “(1) includes male and female students, (2) is racially, ethnically, and economically diverse, (3) includes students from each Congressional district in the state, and (4) includes students who have disabilities.” Students can serve on the council for up to three years, but cannot serve after high school graduation. The 1998 legislation also requires that the Connecticut State Board of Education include two nonvoting student members. Each student member on the State Board must be a public high school senior with at least a B+ grade point average.
Delaware Students in Deleware can legally join district school boards; they cannot vote on them.
Hawaii Students in Hawaii can join and vote on district school boards. Students can join the state school board; they cannot vote on the state school board. The Hawai‘i State Constitution, Article X, Section 2, requires that “The Hawaii State Student Council shall select a public high school student to serve as a nonvoting member on the Board of Education.”  The student serving on the State Board must be a public high school junior or senior and serves a one-year term.  The student is eligible for appropriate state reimbursement, and Hawai‘i offers a $100 stipend for each committee and full Board meeting attended.
Idaho Students cannot join or vote on district school boards in Idaho.
Illinois Students in Illinois can join and vote on district school boards. Students can join the state school board; however, they cannot vote on the state school board.
Indiana Students in Indiana can join district school boards; however, they cannot vote.
Iowa There is no specific law regarding students joining or voting on district school boards in Iowa. Students can join the state school board; however, they cannot vote. The Iowa General Assembly House File 2515 states that the Governor of Iowa shall appoint one nonvoting student member from a list of candidates supplied by the Iowa State Board of Education.  The law states that only high school juniors or seniors are eligible for the position, and they must have attended Iowa public school for at least one year prior to serving on the State Board.  If the student does not graduate at the end of the first term, he or she may seek re-nomination from the Governor.  Students are eligible for appropriate state reimbursement.
Louisiana Students in Louisiana can join the state school board; however, they cannot vote.
Maine Students can join and vote on district school boards.
Maryland Students in Maryland can join district school boards; however, they cannot vote. Students can join and vote on the state school board. Education Article 2-202 of the Annotated Code of Maryland authorizes the Governor to appoint one student member to the Maryland State Board of Education.  The student must be a public high school junior or senior and serves a one-year term.  Student members of the Maryland State Board of Education have partial voting rights; they are excluded from votes concerning the budget, legal appeals, and the removal or reprimand of personnel.
Massachusetts Students in Massachusetts can join district school boards; however, they cannot vote. Students can join and vote on the state school board. The General Laws of Massachusetts Chapter 15, Section 1E require the establishment of five to fifteen Regional Student Advisory Councils and one State Student Advisory Council.  Each public secondary school is required by law to elect two students to its respective regional council.  All grade levels (9th – 12th) are eligible to vote and run for office.  The Regional Student Advisory Councils are charged with advising the State Student Advisory Council. 
Michigan Students in Michigan can join district school boards; however, they cannot vote.
Minnesota Students in Minnesota can join district school boards; however, they cannot vote. Students cannot join or vote on district school boards.
Mississippi Students cannot join or vote on the state school board in Mississippi.
Missouri Students cannot join or vote on the state school board in Missouri.
Montana Students can join the state school board in Montana; however, they cannot vote.
Nebraska Students cannot join or vote on district school boards in Nebraska.
Nevada Students in Nevada can join district and state school boards; however, they cannot vote on either.
New Hampshire Students can join and vote on district school boards in New Hampshire.
New Jersey Students in New Jersey can join district and state school boards; however, they cannot vote on either.
New Mexico Students in New Mexico can join district school boards; however, they cannot vote.
New York Students in New York can join district school boards; however, they cannot vote.
North Carolina Students in North Carolina can join district and state school boards. Students cannot vote on the state school board. According to the North Carolina General Statutes 115C-11, the governor of North Carolina is authorized to appoint “two high school students who are enrolled in the public schools of North Carolina as advisors to the State Board of Education.  The student advisors shall participate in State Board deliberations in an advisory capacity only.” 
Ohio Students in Ohio can join district school boards; however, they cannot vote. Students cannot vote on the state school board.
Oklahoma Students in Oklahoma can join district school boards; however, they cannot vote. Students cannot vote on the state school board.
Oregon Students in Oregon can join district school boards; however, they cannot vote. They cannot vote on the state school board either.
Pennsylvania Students in Pennsylvania can join district school boards; however, they cannot vote. Students cannot vote on the state school board.
Tennessee Students in Tennessee can join district and state school boards. They cannot vote on district school boards; however, they can vote on the state school board. The Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) 49-1-301 requires the Governor of Tennessee to appoint one public high school student to the State Board of Education.  The legislation states that “The high school student shall be of superlative standing and shall serve for a one-year term in an ex officio capacity.  The student member shall be appointed each year from nominees chosen by the local board of education in each school system at each board’s discretion, with no more than one student from each school system being nominated, and with the students having reached their junior or senior year in high school.”  Student Board members are granted full voting rights.
Texas Students cannot join or vote on district school boards in Texas.
Utah Students can join and vote on district school boards in Utah.
Vermont There is no specific law in Vermont regarding students joining or voting on district school boards. Students can join and vote on the state school board. Title 16, Chapter 3 of the Vermont Statutes states that the Governor of Vermont must use an application process that is “open and accessible to all eligible students” when appointing students to the State Board.
Virginia Students in Virginia can join district and state school boards; however, they cannot vote on either.
Washington Students in Washington can join district and state school boards; however, they cannot vote on either.
West Virginia Students cannot join or vote on district school boards in West Virginia.
Wisconsin Students in Wisconsin can join the state school board.

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Quotes about Students on School Boards

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.

Following are quotes related to students on school boards. They are taken from a lot of different sources and relate to many different aspects.

What’s been said about students on school boards?

For as long as I have been on the board, since 1985, we have had student reps. Some are better than others, but they all bring to the table the students’ perspective on the schools and the important issues we face.

It’s good to hear high school sports, activity, charity, etc. updates at the board meetings.

Students bring real-time knowledge of school issues. They help connect the board to everyday activities, conditions and problems of students. Our representatives have been bright, knowledgeable, sincere, energetic and polite.

The student representative reports activities of student council and other student groups, They have not often expressed concerns of student council at board meetings.

This years’ student rep has been discriminated against because his father is with the board’s minority. He is only allowed at regular meetings where previous student reps were allowed at all meetings.

We have two students chosen by the administration, and we learn a great deal about what is happening at the school through these students.

“We have two representatives – one is a high school junior who serves for two years, and the other is the high school senior. “

We had one a few years ago, but the program was not coordinated well and was dissolved for lack of interest.

I believe that having an eighth grader sit in on selected meetings will go a far way to educating our youth on government and its processes.

Not significant for K-8 districts, perhaps OK for K-12 or regional high school districts.

A member of our middle school’s student council cabinet participates in the workshop meeting each month.

Representatives provide input on student activities and respond to questions from the board members

Please share your comments below.

* Several of the comments above are from here.

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Sources for the Students on School Boards Toolkit

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 page features the sources for the SoundOut Students on School Boards Toolbox.

The SoundOut Students on School Boards Toolbox is a compilation of research from a variety of sources by Adam Fletcher for SoundOut. All information is current to the best of our knowledge; however, errors may be present. We invite anyone to submit corrections, additions and further information in the comments section of each page or by contacting us directly.

Historical data throughout the SoundOut Students on School Boards Toolbox was taken from 

Much of the state education agency data that is included herein was compiled by Zachariah Webb for the Kentucky Department of Education. For his  report, entitled “Meeting Kentucky’s Educational Needs: Proficiency, Achievement Gaps, & the Potential of Student Involvement,” Webb contacted each education department in all fifty states in the United States.

Most of the district-level data included the SoundOut Students on School Boards Toolbox was taken from the National School Board Association “Students Serving on Local School Boards Study” which was last updated in 2009. In several circumstances where data came from additional sources, including newspapers and websites, links are provided on the relevant pages.

SoundOut conducted an informal interview with many state agencies and school districts in order to round out the information that was missing in the Students on School Boards Toolbox. Between August and November 2014, we contacted almost 100 individuals by phone or email at least once.  Education agencies involving students frequently allowed us to talk with appropriate staff who were intimately involved in the process. We then asked more detailed questions about how students were included and how students were selected. Several of these conversations also included informal questions about the effectiveness of student members and whether student diversity was a priority or a concern. However, we did not talk with every state education agency or school district we sought to, and because of that there may be state education departments or boards not listed in this report that do involve students.  All attempts have been made to be as thorough and accurate as possible; we invite anyone to share corrections, additions and further information in the comments section of each page or by contacting us directly.

SoundOut thanks the following people for their assistance with our Students on School Boards Toolbox (note that many have changed positions since they were interviewed):

  • Harry Gamble, Alaska Department of Education and Early Development
  • Greg Geeting, California State Board of Education
  • Pam Bergin & Elizabeth Rivera, Connecticut State Department of Education
  • Lana Mito, Hawai‘i Department of Education
  • Lee Patton, Illinois State Board of Education
  • Jeff Zaring, Indiana Department of Education
  • Bev Adams, Iowa Department of Education
  • Carolyn Witt Jones, Partnership for Kentucky Schools
  • Barbara Freiberg, Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Shawn Stelow, Maryland State Department of Education
  • Lisa Bishop, Maryland Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism
  • Donna Taylor, Massachusetts Department of Education
  • Gaye Sorenson, Minnesota Department of Children, Families, & Learning
  • Joy Milam, Mississippi Department of Education
  • Ben Smilowitz, Missouri Office of the Governor
  • Steve Meloy, Montana Board of Public Education
  • Derek Duncan, former Montana student board member
  • LaDonna Bird, Nevada Department of Education
  • Marjan Hajibandeh, former Nevada student board member
  • New Jersey State Board of Education Office
  • Betsy West, North Carolina State Board of Education (even though she is a Duke fan)
  • Reginold Hollie, North Carolina Office of the Governor
  • Phyllis Childers, Tennessee Department of Education
  • Julie Perrey, Tennessee Office of the Governor
  • Charity Clark, Vermont Office of the Governor
  • Dr. Cynthia Cave, Virginia Department of Education
  • Greg Williamson, Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Lacey Androsko, former Washington student board member
  • Brooke Haycock, Education Trust
  • Dottie Gray, National School Board Association
  • Adam King, student activist
  • Kari Kunst, student activist

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Barriers to Students on School Boards

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 highlights barriers to students on school boards. These include attitudes, actions, and outcomes that stop, slow down or otherwise prevent students on school boards.

What gets in the way of students being on school boards?

Unfortunately, there are many. The most immediately challenges are on the surface: the form and function of their involvement; whether they’re advisors, representatives or members; whether they can vote or note; how they are selected, etc. Following are some more of the barriers.

Barrier #1. Representative student leaders = Indirect student voice

As many educators will note, young people are often more than willing to “tell it like it is.”  Yet young people can often sense the underlying motivations and true commitment levels of their coaches, teachers, principals, and administrators.  To obtain the most meaningful contributions, honesty and respect must be established and maintained.  There must be a commitment from the education agency or school leader not only to seek student input, but to seek input from the entire range of students who need to be engaged.

Barrier #2. Types of Involvement

Including a full voting student member on the state board is good, and states such as Massachusetts and Hawai‘i should be applauded and imitated for their elaborate and democratic systems of student participation. Every state should seek authentic, empowering and engaging forms of Meaningful Student Involvement on school boards.

In fact, all states involving students in even the smallest of ways should be commended for their respect of students and their understanding that students can offer invaluable insight about educational systems designed for them.

Meaningful Student Involvement should not be restricted to the state or district levels.  Every principal, every teacher and every parent should have such a faith in students they are charged with educating by moving beyond simply listening to student voice and towards engaging students as partners throughout the education system.

Barrier #3. Input or Involvement?

Unfortunately, even student input is not as abundant. In reality, there are still administrators, principals, and teachers who do not believe that all students can learn, nor that low performing, “alternative,” or minority students can offer valuable insights into the educational process. These students demand more than simple student voice; they are yearning to be treated as partners in learning, teaching and leadership throughout the education system.

As we focus on a generation plagued by achievement gaps and more, we must engage students as partners through Meaningful Student Involvement. Faithfully seeking students who challenge educators to address the pressing educational needs of today by involving students on school boards is one way to foster that change.

How to Move Beyond These Barriers

Reaching proficiency and closing the achievement gaps both require the participation of students, in leadership, advisory, and decision-making roles.  Including students in education system decision-making in a step. Engaging students as education researchers is another, as are school planning, classroom teaching, learning evaluation and education advocacy.

Yet we must also take advantage of the opportunity to improve upon the work of others by tailoring the process to meet our unique needs.  We must empower ourselves by empowering our students.  Only by actively seeking Meaningful Student Involvement for all students in all school in all places at all times will students reach their full potential. Students on school boards is one way there.

Here are three ways to move beyond these barriers.

1. Shift individual attitudes towards students.

This means talking, teaching and otherwise changing the minds and transforming the hearts of students, teachers, building leaders, support staff, parents and others who are affected by students on school boards. This can happen by sharing links, pics, stories, research and more, as well as by offering training and other learning opportunities.

2. Improve the collective culture within your education system.

Education systems start at home, extend to the classroom, engulf schools and are reflected by district and state school agencies. Improving the culture of education is no small task, and can take months and years. Start with step #1 above, and then work broader to change everyone possible.

3. Transform education.

The tallest order is changing the entire structure of education, from curriculum and assessment, teaching and culture to shifting the policies, practices, procedures and outcomes expected. From positioning students on school boards to enacting statewide laws mandating Meaningful Student Involvement throughout districts, transforming education is the end goal and deep process for addressing the barriers described in this article.

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Students on School Boards in Mississippi

The following are facts about students on school boards in Mississippi.

District School Boards

  •  No information is currently available. Please submit details in the comments section below.

State Board of Education

  • There are 9 voting members of the Mississippi Board of Education, and none of them are student members or student representatives.
  • Students cannot join or vote on the state school board in Mississippi.

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Students on School Boards in Missouri

The following are facts about students on school boards in Missouri.

District School Boards

  • In 1972, the Missouri state department of education did not encourage local school boards to consider roles for students on school boards.

State Board of Education

  • Today, there are 8 voting members of the Missouri State Board of Education; none of them are student members or representatives.
  • Students cannot join or vote on the state school board in Missouri.

More Info

 

Students on School Boards in Montana

The following are facts about students on school boards in Montana.

District School Boards

  • In 1972, the Montana state department of education reported that they encouraged local school boards to consider roles for students on district school boards.
  • No current information is available. Please share your information in the comments section!

Montana Board of Public Education

  • There are 7 voting members on the Montana State Board of Education, along with four non-voting members including a student member.
  • One student advisor currently serves the Montana Board of Public Education.
  • The Montana Association of Student Councils selects students for one year terms.
  • Each year the Montana Association of Student Councils (MASC) sends and information packet and application to Montana high schools.
  • The application requires a letter of recommendation.
  • Applications are reviewed by the MASC.

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Students on School Boards in Minnesota

The following are facts about students on school boards in Minnesota.

District School Boards

  • In 1972, the Minnesota state department of education reported that they did not encourage local school boards to consider roles for students on school boards.
  • Today, students can join district school boards but cannot vote.
  • In 1972, the Edina-Morningside School District had a Student Board of Education. It was partially elected and partially student council-appointed, and met before the meetings of the regular adult school board to present student concerns to their elders through the superintendent.

State Board of Education

  • Minnesota does not have a state board of education.

Minnesota School Board Association

  • They are not formal members of the state school board association
  • They do not receive specific training to support their involvement.
  • Students can participate in the state school board association’s normal board training.
  • Student representatives are also scheduled to speak at a workshop/breakout session to adult school board members at their annual convention.

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