The student news site of Emmaus High School

THE STINGER

THE STINGER

The student news site of Emmaus High School

THE STINGER

THE STINGER

Graphic courtesy of Canva.
Balancing work and school
February 22, 2024

Students must speak to their future

Giving students a voice in our school board election
Art+by+Clara+Isom.
Art by Clara Isom.

This previously ran in our October 2023 print issue. 

As voters head to the polls in a little over a week, East Penn School Board elections are near the forefront of the general public’s mind. Where two opposing slates race to control our schools, students are left in a frustrating situation: unable
to vote, yet the most deeply affected no matter the outcome.

School board elections arguably have more influence on students’ day-to-day lives than state or even national elections. The school board’s decisions determine funding decisions, curricular structure, district policies, and more.

For instance, the recent removal of GP courses at EHS was a major change approved by the board, which involved much debate and ended with a 6-3 vote to implement this change. Many members of the community, including several students, protested this decision due to disagreements about the motion being too rushed. These students expressed how firmly they believed this negatively impacted their learning. Their vocal dissent has shown that we as students will not be silent. We as students will continue to question the board’s decisions, not necessarily because they are unwise, but because we want to have an active voice in our local community. The board and its actions impact nearly every aspect of our education and our school, where we spend the most of each day. This is our way of speaking up.

Another example of the board’s influence on student lives can be seen through the 2018 protests. In response to the Feb. 14, 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. On March 14, students at Emmaus High School led a walk-out during the school day against gun violence and the events of Feb. 14. The school board then ultimately voted 6-1 (one abstention) to not limit student expression and protests, instead reaffirming their support of the orderly, calm, and meaningful walk-out.

Decisions like these affect students’ learning experience directly, making it crucial that we are aware of candidates’ stances on the issues. To get involved, students should reach out to candidates and see where they (and their slate if there is one, as in this election) stand on the issues. Although most students cannot vote, they still know numerous people who can. To be more informed, students should have open conversations with the adults in their lives about candidates and their policies. Staying well versed and having discussions based on that information is crucial to maintaining an educated community.

Students can also become more active by voicing their opinions to a wider audience. Students can take to social media to actively spread their opinions and experiences in the district. Alternatively, by starting a blog or even submitting opinion pieces to papers such as The Stinger or The Morning Call, students can inform the greater community of their unique perspectives and opinions–viewpoints that voters may not otherwise see. Ultimately, our democracy on every level relies on constituents explaining their beliefs and advocating for themselves, even if they are not yet eligible to vote.

EHS has its own Activism Club as well, which has been influential in many events at the high school and the greater Emmaus community. Club members helped to organize a day of protest in 2018 on the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, as well as currently organizing several forums for school board candidates to speak to students and the community.

While students should make an active effort, school board candidates, regardless of incumbent status, should also try harder to connect with their student constituents. In order to properly understand and advocate for student educational needs, it is necessary for all elected board members to regularly visit East Penn schools and meet not just with administrators, but with students and teachers as well. For the school board to help students thrive, there must be personal connection and inter- action between both parties. Once that communication is achieved, true progress can be made.

The board has made some steps to make sure student voices are heard. Board members have made it clear that students, like all other community members, are always welcome to share their perspectives at school board meetings during the public comment period. Additionally, the school board has allocated two non-voting seats for student government representatives, which can be used at the second meeting of every month. This representation is moving toward giving us more of a voice on the actions that impact our daily lives,

This is not enough for students to accurately and widely share their views, however. If students are truly to be represented and have their voice heard, the school board must give student representatives the option to be part of the board at all regular meetings (albeit non-voting). After all, how can board members make an accurate and informed decision about issues concerning students if they don’t even hear the affected population’s input?

The time to change our future is now.

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