Tools for Students on School Boards

Students on School Boards Toolbox by SoundOut, including research, examples, tips and more from SoundOut

Here is SoundOut’s collection of tools related to students on school boards. For more information, contact us.

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SoundOut Students on School Boards training
SoundOut School Board training about policies, culture, procedures and outcomes.
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School Boards of the Future by Adam Fletcher

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Presentations about Students on School Boards

Students on School Boards Toolbox by SoundOut, including research, examples, tips and more from SoundOut
SoundOut staff facilitating a student learning session at the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in Olympia, Washington
SoundOut staff facilitating a student learning session at the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in Olympia, Washington.


Here is a collection of presentations SoundOut has shared focused on engaging students on school boards. For more information about our presentations, contact us.

Intro to Student Voice on School Boards

Workshop Description: This interactive session examines the practice of engaging students on school boards. Using research, tools and examples from across the U.S., participants will explore why student voice should be engaged in formal district decisionmaking, best practices, and potential roadblocks. This session also highlights practical steps and important resources for school boards to move forward.



How to Engage Students on School Boards

Workshop Description: Participants in this session will be introduced to SoundOut’s frameworks for Meaningful Student Involvement. It will feature several interactive opportunities. Participants will examine which students to engage on school boards, how to engage them, when it matters, and what difference students can make in board decision-making and throughout the entire education system.


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School Boards of the Future by Adam Fletcher

Student Voice Initiative

In modern schools... Leadership happens through Meaningful Student Involvement. Learn more at Student Voice Initiative, or SVI, is a national organization in Canada that works with school boards to strengthen student engagement in Canada.

From the perspective that students on school boards are the ultimate solution for effective student voice, SVI provides tailored expertise and action planning to help boards, districts and divisions build and improve robust student engagement models. They also share the stories of exceptional student engagement successes across the country to encourage change in education systems across the globe.

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Elsewhere Online

California State Board of Education Student Member

The California State Board of Education Student Member has been a fixture since 1969. They have been full-voting members since 1983.


Starting in 1969, the SBE appointed a student to serve as a board advisor. In 1983, the Legislature and Governor granted the student full participation and voting rights.


In order to become student members of the SBE, students must be:

  • Any student enrolled in a California public high school who will be a senior in good standing
  • Be available to attend a statewide conference in November
  • Serve a one-year term from August through July
  • Attend all SBE meetings held during that time, which includes a minimum of two days every other month for approximately six meetings per year
  • Vote on educational policies vital to California’s students and schools

According to the State School Board of Education, the position provides a wonderful opportunity to influence educational policy in areas such as curriculum, standards, assessments, accountability, and Local Control Funding Formula.


  • California law requires that school district governing board student members select six of the 12 semifinalists for further consideration by the SBE
  • The SBE uses the annual Student Advisory Board on Education, or SABE, conference to perform this function.
  • Twelve semifinalists must attend the Student Advisory Board on Education (SABE) Conference.
  • Semifinalists will participate in all SABE activities.
  • Semifinalists will make individual presentations to all other SABE participants about their interest in, and qualifications for, the student member position.
  • Following a secret ballot by the SABE participants, the names of six candidates will be submitted for further consideration by the SBE’s Screening Committee.
  • The decision of the SABE participants is final.
  • Each of the final six candidates will be interviewed by the SBE’s Screening Committee.
  • The Screening Committee will recommend three finalists to the SBE.
  • Following the Board’s action to select the three finalists, the names of the three finalists will be sent to the Governor.
  • The SBE’s recommendations to the Governor are final. Interviews and the selection of three finalists will occur before and at the SBE’s November meeting.
  • Representatives of the Governor will interview the three finalists, probably in the late spring or summer.
  • One of the finalists is be appointed by the Governor to be the Student Member.


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Student Trustees and Meaningful Student involvement

Students on School Boards Toolbox

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

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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