Back to School: Students Making Systemic Decisions

In 2000, Hans Bernard, a former student member of the Alaska State School Board wrote a booklet called The Power of an Untapped Resource: Exploring Youth Representation on Your Board or Committee for the Alaska Association of School Boards. Following are two lessons he learned, among dozens detailed throughout the publication:

  • Assess your readiness: Boards tend to work effectively with students if, prior to including students members, they have the following qualities:
  • Schedule flexible meeting times that accommodate school schedules.
  • Reframe their culture from doing things to and for students to working with students.
  • Give up some time related efficiency while new members are becoming comfortable with the culture of the board and the use of Robert’s Rules of Order.
  • Make some adjustment to the way the board supports its members, i.e. paying young people in advance for their expenses, and/or explaining the student’s role to their parents.
  • Consider legal issues: If your board deals with liability issues, confidentiality, conflict of interest hearings, employee contracts, and/or student discipline issues, it is a good idea for you to have a conversation with a lawyer to determine the appropriate level of student involvement in these sensitive matters.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

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Adam F. C. Fletcher helps organizations engage people more successfully. Contact him by calling (360) 489-9680 or emailing

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