Student Trustees Calling on Public Board to Take Them More Seriously

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Student trustees with the Greater Essex County District School Board believe they aren't being listened to.

In one of their last board meetings of the year, student trustees Isabel Unger of Leamington District Secondary School and Arabella Soave of Walkerville Collegiate raised a number of concerns over inclusion and transparency.

Unger says, when it comes to important issues, student trustees are ignored.

"Though we have received kind and generous support from administration and trustees as we learned to navigate this role, the truth remains that we have been left feeling as though we aren't wanted in certain spaces," she says. "In our attempts to address concerns of major consequences we have been left in the dark, barred of readings in which we are entitled, worked around, dismissed and ignored."

Unger says the student population as a whole needs to be taken more seriously.

"We are not afforded freedom and speech and expression in the board room and we are not given the same respect and treatment as our adult colleagues. It sometimes felt as though our naivety about our rights and entitlements in this role were taken advantage of to keep us quiet. We've gotten tired of trying to prove that in a school board it is the students who should be taken the most seriously," she says.

Unger says changes need to be made.

"It must be known that change needs to occur going forward. We cannot let another generation of student trustees continue without a hard look at how their voices will be heard, acknowledged and acted upon," she says. "We're not ornaments that adorn the board's meeting and student activities. We are leaders, representatives and advocates who wish to be taken seriously."

The student trustees made a number of recommendations to the board including more consultation on major issues and decisions, having the same access to resources as adult trustees and receiving basic board room training before beginning their role.

The board selects student trustees from both the city and county each school year — they're tasked with chairing the Student Senate and taking part in public board meetings.