Options for Students on School Boards

Are there different roles students can have on school boards?

Following are options for students on school boards written for the SoundOut Students on School Boards Toolbox. These roles show different categories for how students are engaged.

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Role 1: Equitable Engagement

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School boards establish a tiered system that ensure equitable engagement for all students and adults in all schools throughout the district. Beginning on the classroom level, students identify other students they want to represent them. Similarly on the building level, students name their representatives. On the district level, building representatives gather to discuss issues and actions. An equal number of students to adults on the school board are elected to represent their peers at every meeting, in every committee, and throughout every function of the school board with a full vote.

Role 2: Complete Connection

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Creating a district student advisory committee with representatives from each high school can form a complete connection between students and adults. Students are chosen by their peers through processes designed to reflect entire student bodies, and not merely popularity contests. As advisors to the school board, students are meaningfully involved throughout issues that directly affect them, and have opportunities to introduce and challenge other issues accordingly.

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Role 3: Interested Parties

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A student is selected by the district school board to represent student interests in district policy making. Minus an intact policy that addresses students’ rights to meaningful involvement, the student speaks only when spoken to, and does not bring issues to the floor. Their attendance represents adults’ interest in student voice without any substantive ability to affect change in schools.

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Role 4: Tokenizing Students

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Simply and routinely asking students to speak up about what they think about school board policy-making issues is the lowest form of student representation on school boards. Often a voluntary request, this sometimes happens through facebook pages, online surveys or in-person student forums. Mostly it is done by asking students to attend school board meetings, then making them speak at the appropriate times. These are well-meaning, but poorly informed forms of student involvement, as they do not require students have an active role in the process of decision-making beyond that of “informant”.

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