The D.C. Board of Education voted last night to authorize election of a nonvoting student representative to sit on the board.
Many details are yet to be worked out, but board members said last night that the representative will probably be elected by students in the sixth through 12th grades following a brief systemwide campaign. The first election is tentatively set for May.
Although the student will not be allowed to vote on matters before the full board, he will sit with the 11 members at regular meetings and may speak on any issue.
The student will also sit on the board's committee on student services, and will have a vote in that panel, according to board member Wanda Washburn (Ward 3), chairman of the committee.
"Fairfax, Montgomery, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties all have student representatives to their school boards. It's time the District got into the act," Washburn said. Student representatives are not allowed to vote in those jurisdictions, Washburn said.
The sole dissenting vote last night came from board member R. Calvin Lockridge (Ward 8), who said he thought the student representative should be entitled to a vote. Other members pointed out, however, that an act of Congress probably would be required to change the voting make-up of the board.
The student representative will be elected from among an as-yet-undetermined number of candidates, and probably will be an 11th grader through most his term, according to spokesmen for the board. If the election is held in May, they said, candidates will probably be 10th graders, whose terms would carry into the next school year.
Details of the election will be worked out by the city's Student Advisory Council later this week, but according to Marilyn Brown, the school system's director of student services, there probably will be nominees from each high school who will compete against one another in a "regional" election in which eight finalists or fewer will be chosen. A second election will then be held to determine the winner.
The only student voice in school policy now is the Student Advisory Council, which is made up of representatives from the student governments of each school.
Glen Alexander, a student at Eastern High School and the current Student Advisory Council liaison to the board, said last night that he did not feel the student representative needed to be a voting member since the student elected will probably not even be of a legal age to vote. But, he said, "with a student on the board I believe it will attract more students to become aware of what's going on at the board of education."
But Norman Nixon, a Cardozo graduate, disagreed saying that a student representative will make no difference without a vote. Nixon, 19, said he is a delegate to the Statehood Convention from Ward 5 and said, "If I was sitting in that convention without a vote, the things I said and did would not be taken as seriously."
Washburn said that board members thought it would be best to elect an 11th grader since students in the 12th grade are "too busy" with senior year activities. "I have a daughter who's in the 12th grade at Wilson and I never see her," Washburn said.
In other action, the board approved Saturday drivers education classes beginning March 20 at Anacostia, Coolidge, Dunbar, Spingarn and Wilson high schools. Drivers education was suspended this semester because of lack of funding, but City Council member Jerry L. Moore (R-At Large) was able to raise $22,000 for the program from private donors and sponsored legislation raising learners' permit fees from $3 to $5, which will generate additional money for it.