Students deserve voting rights.

CVUSD students are underestimated. At the school board meetings, community members and board representatives claim to be working for the best interests of the kids. Yet it is these same kids who have been publicly shamed and ridiculed when voicing their opinions at board meetings and who have been personally ostracized by trustees. Each meeting I am met with a member of the board or of the community claiming to know exactly what the majority of students are feeling, while I, an actual student, sit silenced in the audience. The irony is bitter.

Last spring, during the time that the ethics of the opt-out policy were under discussion, students packed the tiny boardroom waiting hours for their two minutes at the podium. Kids voiced their opinions on the impending education policy, on student rights in the making of district policy, and on the vote 16 initiative. Interestingly enough none of their views aligned with what members of the board claimed was the “best thing” for students. Many of them were interrupted by the ding of the timer and scoffed off the stage.

I will not be able to vote in the November election, nor will the majority of my peers. I have personally spent the past year attending nearly every board meeting, following the evolution of policy diligently, reporting (with much board and community resistance), on the opt out controversy from all angles. I have been individually labeled by trustee Sandee Everett,

in an email response to an interview request, as “a reporter (who) has shown that they do not check facts”, as “trust must be earned in the journalism world.” When I asked Mike Dunn, former board president, the question As a member of the school board, do you believe that it is your prerogative to use religion as basis for your decisions?” he wrote back that he “would not deny (his) faith in Jesus Christ to appease the secular humanists who hate (his) Christian religion,” proceeding to compare secular humanism with “Hitler and Goebbels”, and ending his email by suggesting that I read the Secular Humanist manifesto.  And yet, I am considered too young, and too immature to vote for future board candidates.

CVUSD students are passionate. Contrary to the belief that some may hold, we are capable of making rational decisions when it comes to the integrity of our education. We are the group most impacted by many board decisions, and yet our voices are blatantly silenced. By the time we are able to vote for district candidates we are already out of high school, often on our way to college, and no longer possess the same proximal connectivity to district issues.

CVUSD should implement a vote 16 policy, so that board members no longer have to assume the feelings of their constituents. I know, from experience, that there are hundreds of perfectly valid opinions that are being ignored under the guise of lack of experience and unappreciation for responsibility. But this is the age where kids are most impacted; this is the age where kids should be urged to vote and stand up for what they believe in rather than be told to sit back and let the adults figure it out. It’s all fine and good to let parents parent, but it is the responsibility of the district to also let students speak.

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