Students Influence School Policies

High school students have a lot of ideas about how their schools could be improved or changed, but they do not always have a voice in decisions.  Student council represents the student body, but often student council functions as a planning committee for entertainment and activities, such as school dances.  The best way to share ideas with administrators is to find a way to communicate realistic concerns, suggestions, and plans with teachers, principals, and school board members.

Students that have complaints about the education process should start with their classroom teachers and use their parents as advocates.  Classroom complaints are usually not something that will change administrative positions; teachers have autonomy and authority in classrooms within the guidelines of the school district’s rules.  Changing school policies (such as dress codes, cell phone usage, and open or closed campuses) requires students to work with administrators.

First students need to check the school handbook and make sure there are no conflicting rules against the changes they are seeking. If there is a classroom policy that needs to be changed, students need to make their requests to their teachers.  If there is a building policy that needs to be changed, students need to make their requests to the principals.  If there is a sports policy that needs to be changed, students need to work with the athletic director.  If there is a district policy that students want changed, they will need to work with the school board members.

If there is a district policy against students having unfiltered internet access, it will be hard for administrators to allow students to use 3G iPads in class.  Students would need to convince teachers and principals that there is a problem in class that can be solved with by using an iPad in class.  With teacher and administrative support, the next step is easier because the school faculty can present ideas to the superintendent and the school board. 

Most school boards have a public comment time during their meetings.  Some districts require people to be 18 if they address the board, and many districts require potential speakers to fill out a comment form before addressing the school board.  When someone makes a public comment, the board usually does not take direct action.  They can put the issue on a later school board meeting agenda to discuss and vote on if necessary.