School board backs a vote for its student member

Panel OKs measure to go to Assembly


Jeff Lasser and Josh Michael got a late high school graduation gift Thursday when the Howard County Board of Education unanimously approved legislation to be sent to the General Assembly that would give students a voting voice in school policy.

The two recent graduates of Howard County high schools attended Thursday's board meeting and watched the culmination of months of planning, arguing and compromising at the school system level.

"It means a lot to see the whole process move forward," said Lasser, a former student member of the school board and a graduate of Atholton High School. "When it is passed, it will help the board more accurately represent the county's population."

Michael, a former student member of the Maryland State Board of Education and a graduate of Centennial High School, added: "I think it is a great day for education in Howard County for all stakeholders. It's something we have been working on for 20 years."

The proposed legislation explains that juniors and seniors who live in the county and attend a public school would hold the position. It also says that students enrolled in middle or high school in the school system would be able to vote in the election.

The student member would not be allowed to vote on attendance areas, site acquisitions, condemnation, consolidation, architect selection, appointment and salary of the superintendent, employee discipline and other appeals, the capital and operating budgets, appointments, teacher discipline, collective bargaining issues, and student suspensions and expulsions.

The proposed legislation also addresses how the student member would affect the voting dynamic of the board, which is to expand from five to seven members this year. When the student member votes, five votes would be necessary to pass an item; and four votes would be needed when the student member is not voting.

"Students are inevitably part of the process," said Michael, who will attend the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in the fall. Lasser will attend the University of Maryland, College Park.

The board's draft bill will be shared with the county's state delegation in preparation of the 2007 legislative session.

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