Beginning in January 2023, every school board in New Hampshire must have at least one student member from each of the high schools maintained by the district. This requirement is a critical step toward ensuring that students have authentic, meaningful, and direct input in the decisions that will affect their future.
Here’s what you need to know about the new law and current practice around student school board members.
Beginning January 1, 2023:
- All NH school boards must include at least one student member of each public high school the district operates.
- School boards can opt to have more than one student member from each high school that their districts operate.
- Student board members do not have voting power, and cannot participate in non-public sessions, including collective bargaining discussions, individual student and faculty decisions, and other sensitive topics and confidential items described in NH RSA 91-A.
“The recently passed law that requires student membership on boards is important because it guarantees that students have a say in the policy process that most directly impacts them.”Prescott Herzog, former Claremont student board member
Student Board Member Role
Student board members:
- Will have all the same rights as adult board members except voting rights.
- Will be elected by a simple majority vote of the high school student body. The student government will establish procedures for nomination and election of student board members, and for students to petition the student member to bring proposals and opinions to the board.
- Will serve one-year terms, set by the board. Students who will graduate during the term may neither run nor vote for the student board member. The student government will create procedures for filling student board member vacancies.
Student Board Member Responsibilities
- Attending all board meetings except non-public sessions.
- Representing all public high school students in the district.
- Presenting opinions and proposals to the board when petitioned by students; placing proposals on the board agenda when appropriate.
- Acting as a liaison between students, the principal, faculty, student government advisors, and appropriate outside agencies.
- Informing the student body about school board activity.
The majority of public school districts in New Hampshire already have some form of student membership or representation on school boards, according to the New Hampshire School Boards Association.
- The Oyster River School Board has had a student representative from Oyster River High School since 1987. This student has a non-binding vote and is democratically elected by the student body. The practice “works superbly,” said Superintendent Dr. Jim Morse.
- The Concord School Board has two student board members who usually serve for two years, staggered from each other; one junior and one senior almost always serve on the board at the same time. These students work on meaningful projects. One former student member, Alice Richards, worked with the student body and a committee to create a student-teacher relations policy.
Student Representation Around the Country
Student membership on school boards is a common practice nationwide. California appointed the first student to its state board of education in 1969. In 2020, 31 states reported to the National School Boards Association that student board membership was a local option, and two reported that it was required . Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia also have students on the state Board of Education.
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