It takes courage for parents to publicly advocate for students on controversial school governance practices. As with race and gender equality or other social empowerment issues, listening and understanding can begin only when silence ends.
I found something to agree with in each recent letter to the Indy about our schools. Some called for more student and parent accountability, others want more school board and senior staff accountability, along with more holistic measures of student success.
None of that can happen, however, without better school governance, restoring due process and predictable even-handed outcomes for students, parents and teachers.
The biggest mistake managing schools is thinking adults have all the answers. Silence among students puts too many at higher risk. Earned recognition for achievement can be accompanied by a more inclusive social and civic culture on campus.
Restoration of traditional student government can enrich campus life, amplify student voices, expand opportunity for student success, even harness peer pressure for good choices instead of bad. In addition to going deeper in school and community service, look how students in Parkland, Fla., turned tragedy to civic empowerment and a national movement to stop unregulated gun rights from taking away their right to life and pursuit of happiness.
That potential for learning real world problem solving is why a past school board wisely adopted a bylaw allowing a student to participate and even cast non-binding preferential votes. As with so many issues, instead of affirmatively following its own rules our School Board patronizingly marginalizes student participation.
Some impressive students stepped forward over the years, but weren’t allowed to serve as contemplated under board bylaws. Shouldn’t we either repeal the bylaw or comply affirmatively by making it a real democratically elected role that represents and empowers all students?
More broadly, shouldn’t we restore meaningful student government in a grade 5-12 civics program? A constitutional convention project at LBHS could be attended by observer delegations from more robust student councils at Thurston, El Morro and TOW.
LBHS could have a student congress and student court to promote positive socialization and higher student conduct standards. I have visited schools across the state and nation where this is working, and it worked when I was at LBHS in the turbulent 1960’s.
It can work here again, in these often unexpectedly troubling times for many young people in our town and nation.
Howard Hills, Laguna Beach