Introduction

Student Voice Initiative operates on a foundation of support from policy-makers, school administrators, academics, and students from across North America and the world in support of giving students a greater voice in their own education. Through a decentralized network of student advocates across Canada, we have presented before the Canadian Student Leadership Conference, held audiences with the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada, and spoke before student leaders, administrators, and US Department of Education representatives at the inaugural Student Voice Live! at Microsoft’s offices in New York City in April 2013. We will be addressing the Canadian School Boards’ Association Congress in Vancouver in July.

Our core mandate arose from the success of the ‘student trustee‘ position within the Ontario education community, which has fostered a student voice framework ranging from student councils at every school, to student senates and student trustees at the regional or district school board level, to the formation of a provincial stakeholder in the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association.

We act as a supportive network and forum for knowledge exchange to movements being coordinated in BC,Alberta, and Nova Scotia. We support the establishment of a student voice framework and student trustees at every level of educational decision-making in every province and territory in Canada.

Student Voice Initiative operates on a foundation of support from policy-makers, school administrators, academics, and students from across North America and the world in support of giving students a greater voice in their own education. Through a decentralized network of student advocates across Canada, we have presented before the Canadian Student Leadership Conference, held audiences with the Secretariat of theCouncil of Ministers of Education of Canada, and spoke before student leaders, administrators, and US Department of Education representatives at the inaugural Student Voice Live! at Microsoft’s offices in New York City in April 2013. We will be addressing the Canadian School Boards’ Association Congress in Vancouver in July.

Our core mandate arose from the success of the ‘student trustee‘ position within the Ontario education community, which has fostered a student voice framework ranging from student councils at every school, to student senates and student trustees at the regional or district school board level, to the formation of a provincial stakeholder in the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association.

We act as a supportive network and forum for knowledge exchange to movements being coordinated in BC,Alberta, and Nova Scotia. We support the establishment of a student voice framework and student trustees at every level of educational decision-making in every province and territory in Canada.

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Student Voice Discussion “Student Trustee and Board Positions”

Issues

What are our concerns?

• Students have important input on their own education but are not given a voice in the boardroom decisions that directly affect them

• Decisions made in the boardroom are rarely effectively communicated with students

• Civic engagement and voter turnout rates among youth are at an all-time low

• There is a lack of spaces through which students can have their voices heard

• Youth are not empowered in a way that encourages them to be civically active and makes them feel like they can make a difference

• Civically active youth who are already involved in their communities do not have a platform through which they can share ideas and best practices and are therefore unable to set a precedence for other young people to get involved

• The traditional civics curriculum does not teach students enough about how government functions through experiential learning opportunities

Knowledge

What do we know?

• Student input can improve education policy decision making and can lead to youth having a better understanding of how public policies are crafted

• Ontario’s student voice framework (which consists of student councils, student senates, and student trustees) while continuously undergoing improvements, has worked and bettered public education for the past 13 years

• Ontario (since 1998) and New Brunswick (since 2009) are the only two provinces in Canada that have mandated student representatives in all school boards

• Civic engagement is the heart of a healthy democracy, but fostering a culture of civic engagement must begin at an early age, and civic education must be practical and experiential

• Students are conscious of their own needs and can improve boardroom decisions

• Student leadership allows youth to develop soft skills such as decision-making, critical thinking, and public speaking that they cannot learn from a textbook

• Involving students in their own education can improve student satisfaction

• Studies have shown that many young people believe they are leaders, but far fewer actually show it at school

• Celebrating the successes of youth who make an impact on their communities will encourage more young people to do the same

• Student leadership is becoming an increasingly important area of education research around the world

Solutions

What are the solutions?

• Work with students, Ministries of Education, and school boards across the country to enact legislation establishing a democratically-elected student representative and student advisory council in every school board, and a democratically-elected student council in all high schools

• Empower local student groups to promote student voice in educational policy-making

• Host regional, provincial, and national summits bringing students together to connect and share best practices

Student Trustees

What is a student trustee?

Unlike adult school board trustees or representatives who are elected to represent the voices of taxpayers, Student Trustees are students elected by their fellow peers to represent the voices of the student body on their local school board. Serving as the bridge between students and policymakers, the student trustee is not only responsible for voicing students’ concerns on the issues they care about, but also has the ability to propose policies on students’ behalf and exercise a vote.

The student trustee is supported by a Student Senate, school board committee of student leaders elected by their peers to address their issues at the school board level. The Student Senate is responsible for promoting student leadership across the school system through regional forums and working with school board officials to craft education policy.

Working closely with the Student Senate are Student Councils, a body of students elected by their peers to represent them at school. The Student Council works closely with both parents and the school administration to improve students’ well being at school.

Establishing a student trustee is not a simple matter of just granting a title. A student trustee is:

  • Recognized as being the representative and voice of the school board’s student body at the school board, in the media, and in other public engagements
  • A current, full-time student in satisfactory academic standing
  • Mandated in every school board through the province’s Education Act
  • Supported by local school board-specific policies and procedures
  • At a minimum, permitted to attend and speak at all public committee and board meetings (with full in-camera participation privileges being the preferred option)
  • At a minimum, permitted to exercise a non-binding recorded vote on all public matters (with full binding vote participation privileges being the preferred option)
  • Permitted to submit reports and motions to the board to consider at its committee and board meetings
  • Given access and privileges that other school board trustees have to board staff, training, and resources
  • Democratically elected by students across the school board to serve for one academic year
  • Supported and advised by a democratically elected committee of students representing school districts across the school board
  • Responsible for directly reporting to the school board committee of students, and, in turn, the student body as a whole
  • Granted a modest but adequate budget to use towards professional development, program development, and the satisfactory completion of their normal tasks and responsibilities
  • Compensated for their time and efforts at the end of their term
  • Allocated at least one adult advisor at the school board
  • Once a student trustee is established in every school board in the province, it becomes ideal – under the realization that education policy is crafted at the provincial level – for these student trustees to form a provincial organization to work with the Ministry of Education.

 

Download our Student Trustee Handbook!

 

Successes