In school districts across Canada, there is a growing movement promoting roles for student trustees on the board of trustees. There is no one set role for student trustees. If a board of trustees has student representation, it is often a single student who is charged with representing hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of their peers.

In modern schools... Leadership happens through Meaningful Student Involvement. Learn more at SoundOut.org.

What It Is

The fundamental purpose of allowing a Student Trustee to sit on the school board is to ensure Meaningful Student Involvement throughout the education system. Actively engaging student trustees:

  • Increases student engagement in learning, teaching and leadership
  • Builds student ownership in education
  • Secures lifelong civic engagement among participants and their peers.

Ontario has a longstanding tradition of student trustees on their school boards. Every district in the province includes students on district boards to varying effects.

What They Do

Our research, along with practice across the nation, shows that keys to effective student trustees include:

  • Well-defined purpose and function of the student trustee
  • Proportionate student representation
  • Democratically elected by their peers
  • Ensured diversity and inclusion
  • Full participation in monthly board meetings and board committee meetings
  • Classroom credit for student members

Student trustees participation in board meetings should not simply consist of a report on their activity and progress on student initiatives. Instead, best practices show student trustees should:

  • Have a full, binding vote.
  • Be able to move a motion Engage with their peers by strategically and frequently visiting schools within their boards
  • Meet regularly with their Student Senate as well as other student groups representative of a schools’ diversity
  • Work with adults in their schools and across their districts to organize initiatives that enable them to meaningfully involve more students

What They Do Not Do

Roles for student trustees do not:

  • Mean all students are equally represented
  • Automatically ensure students know all about education and the education system
  • Ensure elementary and secondary students, students with special education needs, students in specific programs (e.g. extended French or Enrichment), and students in all curriculum streams are engaged

Instead, it means that a board of trustees has student representatives who are humans. Just like adult trustees cannot effectively represent every constituency in their district, students cannot and should not be expected to do that, either. Student trustees can strive to listen to their peers and engage other students in meaningful ways, but their roles cannot be the only roles for Meaningful Student Involvement in their districts.

Where They Are At

For more information about how SoundOut can help with your student trustees, contact us.

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Published by Adam Fletcher

Adam is the founding director of SoundOut. An author, speaker and consultant, he has worked with K-12 schools, districts, nonprofits and others for more than 15 years. Learn more about him at http://soundout.org/Adam

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