Board's OK on student voting rights clears way for draft bill

May 28, 2006|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV,SUN REPORTER

The Howard County school board's unanimous vote in favor of partial student voting rights means that the way is clear for legislation to be drafted and sent to the General Assembly that would give students a voting voice in school policy.

But Thursday's vote did not come without discussion - and it appeared at times that the decision would again be delayed because of disagreements.

In its final action, the board retracted several rights that it had agreed to in a straw vote. That action had included granting the student member the right to vote on land transfers, bids and contracts.

Board members did not want to include those rights after they learned that members of the student representation policy committee and Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin did not want them included.

Roger Plunkett, business, community and government relations officer for the school system, said the group wanted to mirror successful legislation by Montgomery and Baltimore counties, which have partial student voting rights.

However, board member Mary Kay Sigaty was adamant about the student member keeping those rights and was not persuaded by school system lawyer Mark Blom's argument that granting such rights could cause potential legal problems.

"All of these things would be taken care of if they were part of state law," she said.

Board member Courtney Watson said that there would be an opportunity to add the rights in the future. "I would like to see this passed," she said. "This is a safer way to go."

Diane Mikulis, the board's vice chairman, agreed. "The most important thing is getting our student voting rights," she said.

Any legislation that is drafted would have to be approved by the board in August. After that, it would be shared with the county's state delegation in November in preparation of the 2007 legislative session.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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