Calls for change fall on deaf ears

The school board has a duty to incorporate student voices in its decisions – but has not done so in many of its most important ones.

For all its efforts to research the merits of virtual schooling, the school board has failed to take student voices into account in making its decisions in the past. | Graphic by Emmi Wu ’23/Staff

The school board elections are coming up, and the excitement and buzz is certainly rivaling that of my student body president election in eighth grade: that is, relatively nonexistent. Through some mild research, and scrolling to the ends of the LMSD Facebook page, I’ve found a pattern with the LMSD School Board. The Board loves to make committees and tell parents they’re making serious progress, to show they’re putting the issues students face at the forefront of their agenda—yet nearly a year into the ad hoc Racial Equity meetings and it feels as though very little has changed. We may have a Voices in Literature and Black Excellence history class now, and it’s important to recognize the smaller wins, but it begs the question: through these separate classes being formed to specifically tackle voices in history that thus far have been erased, do we let the district off the hook when it comes to BIPOC history in mandatory classes? Does a half-year elective make up for the years of miseducation this district continues to allow for in its classrooms?

To be blunt, it doesn’t. I’m glad our high schools are trying harder; but can we honestly say the same for all of our schools, if my sister will still be taught next year that the civil war was a tale of economic oppression? If the kid I babysit next door will still have to hear the Odyssean epics of the heroic Christopher Columbus? This isn’t all at the fault of the School Board; but they are the ones we elect to represent us and make these serious decisions regarding our education. I personally prefer a student representative on the board, because after years of attending meetings, it still seems that what students actually want and need is constantly deemed an afterthought.

One clear example of this was the petition that circulated around winter break for LM not to return to hybrid. It suggested that the virtual schedule was vastly more beneficial than the current one we use. Despite receiving thousands of signatures, this petition was dismissed with a courteous email and a pat on the back for using our big kid voices. In this email, sent by Superintendent Robert Copeland on December 7, the district acknowledged the myriad communications that they had received, then proceeded to tell students that they’d continue doing the opposite.

The issue here wasn’t that the Board did not do exactly what their constituents wanted; rather that students were directly sharing that an all-virtual schedule was better for their mental and physical health, academic success, and overall well-being, and the Board could not give any valid considerations back. I’m sure they had some, given it has been nearly a year in this ineffective and volatile school schedule, but if they truly valued student voices, they could have responded differently. They could have presented all this expensive research they boast about at every opportunity. But they didn’t. In the LMSD Student Handbook, students are assured that they “have an opportunity to be heard by the Board and to participate as other citizens in an atmosphere of mutual respect to a degree that is appropriate in its deliberations,” along with the right to petition. But honestly, what good are these rights we’re supposed to be entitled to if they only exist on paper? If our voices aren’t seriously considered? If these things bother you, if you care about your school, or even if you want to be heard—tell your parents to do their research for the upcoming 2021 LM School Board elections.