JPS board considers adding student representatives

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Students who attend the Jackson Public School District may have a chance to tell district leaders exactly what is important to them during the next school year.

During a Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night, members discussed a policy for student representation.

Interim superintendent Freddrick Murray, speaking at a committee meeting to discuss the idea on Monday, said the policy was an opportunity for added student voices.

Whenever the board “can hear from our students (and) they can be actively involved in the work that we do for them, I think it’s important,” he said.

To make it official, the board must approve the policy with a vote at future meeting. Although the students would attend and participate in the board meetings that take place every other Tuesday, their level of involvement with the board has not been finalized.

Details, such as how much information to provide and the types of documents students will have access to, are still being ironed out. The policy is being modeled off an existing program in Worthington, Minn., according to an email board member Jed Oppenheim sent to his colleagues before the Monday meeting.

“I don’t know if a 16-year-old or a 17-year-old is going to have a real sense of what this means to have a contract with even our food service providers, but it opens that discussion as an example,” Oppenheim said Monday.

Seven students — one from each JPS high school — would serve as representatives, Murray said.

The policy, which is subject to change before the board eventually votes on it, states student representatives would be elected by their peers. The election would be open to juniors or seniors who maintain at least 95 percent attendance rate and a minimum 2.5 GPA, the document states.

Oppenheim said the board members would also serve as mentors to the student representatives.

Kayleigh Skinner/Mississippi Today

Students pose with staff from Operation Shoe String after they addressed the JPS Board of Trustees at a Tuesday night meeting.

At the board meeting Tuesday, several students addressed members to advocate for more student representation. Local nonprofit organization Operation Shoe String conducted focus groups with some JPS students to discuss the idea of student representation. Callaway High School sophomore Cameron Lazard said right now, she and her peers don’t really have a say in what happens in their schools.

“When they make decisions you really don’t have student input and when students find out about it it’s just like ‘where did this come from?'” Lazard said.

If the policy is passed, Lazard said, she would probably apply.

Jordan Taylor, a junior at Callaway, told the board during the public comment portion of the meeting that student representatives could provide helpful input on school policies, such as dress codes and cell phone rules.

“They could be the voice of the people,” Taylor said.

“I feel that students should be on school representation because honestly who knows how the students feel other than the students?”