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!

Published by Adam

For almost two decades, Adam F. C. Fletcher has led international outreach focused on engaging people successfully. Working with thousands of youth-serving nonprofits, K-12 schools, government agencies, international NGOs and other organizations around the world, his work spans the fields of education, public health, economic development and social services, and includes professional development, public speaking, publishing, social media and more. He founded the Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement, SoundOut and CommonAction, as well as writing more than 50 publications and 500 articles. He has also established 150-plus community empowerment projects.

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