In February 2020, dozens of Berkeley High School (BHS) students spoke out in school board meetings to protest the administration’s mismanagement of rape and sexual assult allegations, as well as the lack of consent education and resources for survivors. Enraged by the complacency of the adminstration and the ubiquity of misogyny and systemic rape culture, student leaders organized speakers to present in front of the Berkeley school board. At the meeting, students outlined a list of demands for the board to meet and spoke about their experiences at BHS. Less than a year later, the dedicated work of these students is reflected in tangible changes in the BHS community, such as the hiring of a permanent Title IX coordinator and investigator, better consent education for students, and a healthy relationship and consent curriculum for student athletes.
New implementations like this demonstrate the power we as students have in shaping our education, if we’re willing to fight for it. We need to show up to school board meetings in mass if we want the possibility of structural change.
When students don’t attend school board meetings and demand that their voices be heard, they aren’t. As students, we have valuable insight into what the student body needs. If we care about the experiences of our fellow students and the thousands that will come after us, it’s our responsibility to show up and speak out to the board.
In the words of Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) Student Director Miles Miller, “Sometimes we need to scream ten times louder for our voices to be heard.” It may be easy to dismiss the voice of a single student, but as a group we have the power to shift anything in the district. “I think [going to school board meetings] can make change when there are numbers behind it,” Miller explained.
Student attendance at school board meetings doesn’t just impact the current student body, but future generations as well. If students don’t start showing up to board meetings, the policies passed aren’t going to reflect the needs of the student body. Once those policies have been implemented, they’re incredibly difficult to undo, and can have devastating impacts on the success of future students. “We need to make sure that we’re providing the best education for those who come after us,” said Miller.
Within the context of a global pandemic, student representation at school board meetings has become more and more crucial. Right now, decisions about distance learning and returning to school are being made without student input. “The reason that elementary school parents have gotten so much more progress with moving towards hybrid learning is because at every meeting they come and speak their mind,” said Miller. To take control of our education, the least we can do is show up.
Come to school board meetings and bring friends and classmates with you. Take inspiration from the work of students last year, and start organizing groups to fight for our future. Share the experiences of BHS students during public comment, and contact your school board members about the policies that are discussed. We can’t be complacent. We must speak out today for the change we wish to see tomorrow.
More information about Berkeley School Board meetings can be found here
To join a Berkeley school board Zoom meeting click here
To contact Miles Miller, BUSD Student Director, email firstname.lastname@example.org