For many years, students have played a tremendous role in advancing social change in schools. Our passions and idealistic attitudes have affected history, and will continue to play a role in the development of society. Tinker vs. De Moines in 1969, the University of Missouri protests in 2015, and the Sunflower Student Movement in 2014 are just three examples of how students all over the country — and the world — have successfully fought for their passions and rights. At the local level, however, it is difficult to figure out the best way to appropriate our interests in a way that truly matters.
Currently, Valley Stream schools have student organizations, such as student council and student government. However, the scope of their influence is not on par with that of the Board of Education. The solution to this problem, as various states across the country have found, is letting students join the Board of Education.
School board members hold one of the most important responsibilities that a citizen can have: They make new policies and oversee the school community. Should we students be permitted to participate in decisions that affect our education? In Valley Stream, I believe the answer is yes.
Putting a single, mature, qualified student on the Board of Education can empower Valley Stream’s youth. With someone their own age on the board, high school students would feel more comfortable voicing their opinions about improving the schools.
You heard it here, folks. Young people do indeed have valid opinions, ideas, knowledge and experience. But having students on school boards can also give adults better insight as to what is actually happening in the schools.
Adam Fletcher, founder of the nonprofit organization SoundOut, which promotes student participation in education, once said: “We get very worried whenever we have to hand over any modicum of control to young people. To claim that students are incapable of successfully engaging, reflects a fear-driven perspective that positions students as empty vessels of an adult-driven society.”
If we grant students the right of participation, and go the extra step to put a student in the position to participate with authority, students will also feel more inclined to follow new rules. School culture will improve, and pride in education will increase.
Schools pride themselves on their ability to successfully teach students how to become productive members of our democratic society. What better way to prepare us for life’s decision-making than by letting us become a key part of the decisions that affect us now? Students can become more effective learners when they are engaged with the school boards.
It is we students who are directly affected by the actions of the Board of Education. Voters, teachers, administrators, parents, board members, businesspeople — each are stakeholders in the board’s decision-making. Students ought to have a stake, too, and in Valley Stream, it’s time we acknowledge that.
Anthony Cruz is an eleventh-grade student at Central High School in Valley Stream, and is the editor-in-chief of The Crier, the school’s newspaper.