To the editor:
It is frustrating to learn that the Bristol Warren School Committee, in a split 5-4 vote and contrary to the recommendation of its own Policy Committee, voted against having a …
To the editor:
It is frustrating to learn that the Bristol Warren School Committee, in a split 5-4 vote and contrary to the recommendation of its own Policy Committee, voted against having a student representative on the Committee. The proposal to have a student representative on the Committee is a sound and logical idea. The student would need to be screened/vetted by the Committee and would not have a vote. How could that be something negative? What is the School Committee afraid of?
Having worked at the RI Department of Education and in education and public health throughout my career, I saw how important student/youth input and participation is in program development and problem solving. Student involvement benefits, not only the schools they attend, but also the communities in which they live.
Students have valuable, lived experience, regarding their education and safety. Students know their needs. They know their friends. They know their environments, their classrooms and what contributes to problems and successes. The school Committee should WANT to hear from students. It is the Committee’s job to ensure that students are educated and safe. Students don’t have all the answers, but they do have some. Students certainly have a perspective that should be listened to and respected.
Part of the rationale against the proposal was that students have the opportunity to listen and speak up at public School Committee hearings as part of the general public, time-limited comments. That is not the same as being an active part of a discussion, hearing various perspectives and weighing in on decisions, directly.
Being a student Committee member (even without a vote) is about respect, communication and participation. Saying no to a student member says a lot about how members of the Committee view direct student participation and dismisses their valuable perspective.
And, just as the School Committee can and should learn from students, students can learn from committee meetings and about the education system. Students are the perfect ambassadors between the School Committee and Student Council and other student groups.
Other school committees, such as Barrington and Narragansett, have passed such a proposal. These are high performing school districts. Let’s learn from them.
Squelching students' direct input is the wrong decision and does nothing to better our our students or our school system