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Opinion Supports Student Member On Board Voting

By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Maryland attorney general's office issued a legal opinion this week saying the student school board member in Prince George's County has the right to vote in internal elections for the school board's leadership.

The opinion is not binding as a matter of law.

But it could block a proposal to stop the student member, Haywood L. Perry III, from voting in upcoming elections for the school board's chairman and vice chairman.

The proposal, awaiting a decision by the school board, would also place some restrictions on the student member's ability to travel.

Several student leaders in Prince George's, including the student member of the State Board of Education, have spoken out against it.

Supporters say that the votes for chairman and vice chairman are personnel matters. State law says personnel matters are among the subjects on which the student board member cannot vote.

But the opinion, requested by Del. Joseline A. Pe¿a-Melnyk (D-Prince George's) after she was approached by students from her district, concluded that voting for officers was not a personnel matter.

"I believe a vote on the election of officers more appropriately concerns a matter of corporate governance rather than a personnel matter," the opinion said.

"It is my opinion that the student member cannot be denied the right to vote on this ground."

The opinion leaves the matter open to a vote by the Prince George's school board, but notes that "an erroneous decision" may be reviewed by the State Board of Education.

Perry had not yet received a copy of the opinion yesterday. But he said he knew its general outlines and seemed pleased.

"First and foremost, I am proud of the involvement and the commitment that was demonstrated by our county students in expressing their opinions on this issue," Perry said.

"This was truly a triumph of our entire county."

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