Two members of the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team on Monday asked the Fayette County school board to allow a student elected by their peers to have a seat on the Fayette County Board of Education.
Under the proposal, the student representative would not be a voting member.
School board members did not make a decision on Monday, but Melissa Bacon, Daryl Love and Doug Barnett all said they were open to the idea. Board member Amanda Ferguson was not present for the discussion.
Student voice team members Eliza Jane Schaeffer, a senior at Henry Clay High School, and Sahar Zadeh, a sophomore at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, made the request at Monday’s school board meeting.
The Prichard Committee Student Voice Team is a group of students seeking to elevate the voices of students in education policy discussion. The student voice team has gotten national attention for its advocacy on issues such as school funding and student representation on governing boards.
“The request is simple: that the Fayette County School Board allow an advisory, peer-elected student to serve as a permanent representative, not for a certain part of
our district, but for the entire student body,” said Schaeffer.
“Our reasoning behind this request is also simple. As those on the receiving end of the education system, students offer a valuable perspective that should be reflected in
school decision-making. The district as a whole stands to benefit from student representation on its highest school governance body.”
The students said the student voice movement has a strong presence in Maryland and California, where nearly every district has a student member of the board and several districts support students to serve as full voting members.
In Kentucky, on the Boone County school district’s board, the student member does not have a vote but has the chance to make a three- to five-minute presentation at each meeting and is often consulted before votes, she said.
The Eminence Independent school board does not have a student member; however, every school decision-making council in the district, including the elementary school,
has a full voting student member, Schaeffer said.
Brison Harvey, a teacher at Lafayette High School, said he was at Monday’s meeting as an “adult ally” to the Student Voice Team.
Harvey said as a high school student, he served as a student member on the board of education in Garrett County, Maryland.
“While I did not have voting rights, I did have a similar role to the one that was presented by Eliza Jane Schaeffer,” Harvey said. “I was considered an official member of the board of education, without voting rights. I spoke on matters as they were presented and asked questions on topics as they came up. I went to a state training session for a week to learn about the process of being a member on the board of education and had similar training to those who were newly elected board members in their district.”