Youth in St. Louis Park Public Schools could have representatives of their own on the School Board in the future.
The board is considering adding student members to the board, similar to several St. Louis Park city commissions.
Boardmember Virginia Mancini raised the idea at a Sept. 13 board meeting. She noted the St. Louis Park Human Rights Commission, on which she served, has two youth representative positions while the Mahtomedi School District, where she works as an educator, has a student representative on its board.
The Mahtomedi policy on the student representative states that the role is advisory.
“The representative does not have the right to vote, make, or second a motion, but does have all other rights in accordance with school board policy, law, and parliamentary procedure,” the policy says.
The Hopkins School Board also includes student representation.
“Student School Board Representatives are the voice of Hopkins High School and are responsible for sharing that perspective with the Board,” the district’s website states. “Although not allowed to vote as members of the Hopkins School Board, Student School Board Representatives are encouraged to be engaged at the Board table.”
The Hopkins School Board began with two student advisory members in 1991 and increased the number to three in 2000.
In advocating for student representatives to the St. Louis Park School Board, Mancini pointed out that St. Louis Park students contributed to the district’s racial equity policy and gender inclusion policy.
“Without the input from students, I don’t think that those policies would be as strong as they are,” Mancini said.
The Minnesota School Boards Association also encourages boards to provide student representatives, Mancini added.
She discussed the idea with the superintendent of Mahtomedi Public Schools, Hopkins School District Board Chair Jen Westmoreland Bouchard and St. Louis Park Councilmember Larry Kraft, who has worked to increase youth representation on city commissions.
Mancini suggested adding two youth members to the St. Louis Park School Board.
After other members of the St. Louis Park School Board expressed openness to the idea, Board Chair Anne Casey said she agreed with the suggestion for two student representatives.
“Two might be plenty for right now,” Casey said.
Boardmember Abdihakim Ibrahim raised questions about which data student representatives would be allowed to see. Mancini responded that the school boards association has recommended policies on such details.
The Mahtomedi policy on its student representative states, “The superintendent shall withhold materials that constitute private or confidential data or are sensitive in nature.”
The policy also prevents student representatives from participating in closed meetings, which Mancini indicated would also be her intent for St. Louis Park student representatives.
Mancini suggested that one of the elected board members could serve as a mentor for student representatives, having discussions with them ahead of board meetings.
Boardmember Sarah Davis indicated that the board would have to be direct with student representatives that state law would prevent them from having voting rights on the board. She noted young people at a training had said that “sharing space is not the same as sharing power.”
Davis said, “I think we need to be really thoughtful about what we can share power on and be really clear about that upfront.”
Boardmember C. Colin Cox said the board should consider the current ways in which students have a voice in the board’s decision-making process and whether adding student representatives is the best way for students to engage in the process. As a possible alternative, if the board did not pursue the addition of student representatives, Cox suggested an open forum with students about the issues important to them.
Following the board discussion, Casey directed Mancini, Ibrahim and Boardmember Ken Morrison to work on the idea. The three members potentially would then bring a plan before the full seven-member board.
Follow the Sun Sailor on Facebook at facebook.com/mnsunsailor.