Integrating student board members into the governance team
Having a high school student serve as a member of his or her district school board offers benefits to both the governance team and the student. Student board members bring unique perspectives and insights to the board.
Students board members sharing insights
At the same time, students who serve on the board learn about the importance of civic involvement and democracy, as well as gain important leadership and communication skills. To maximize student participation, the board must provide a welcoming environment that supports full integration, to the extent allowed by law, of the student board member in the district’s governance.

Boards may establish one or more student board member position(s) at their own discretion, reflecting the board’s desire for student participation in governance of the district. Alternatively, students can petition the board requesting the appointment of at least one student board member. When student board representation is established by petition, California law requires that student board members be chosen by students enrolled in district high schools. A same or similar process may be used for positions established at the board’s discretion. Student board members serve a one-year term, commencing July 1.

Student board members have the right to attend and participate in all open meetings of the board; be recognized as full members; receive open meeting materials and staff briefings at the same time as other board members; and, pursuant to Assembly Bill 709, receive any other materials distributed to the board between meetings as long as they do not pertain to closed session items. Student board members may cast preferential votes on all open session items, with the vote conveying a formal expression of opinion that is recorded in the minutes but which does not affect the final outcome of the vote.

Governance teams should be aware of other changes required by AB 709, which, according to author Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), helps to “strengthen the partnership between the student voice and the school board” (Assembly Education Committee bill analysis).

Student board members also have the right to serve on subcommittees of the board in the same manner as other board members but, given the time commitment required for participation, they may decline an appointment. The availability of all subcommittee members, including the availability of student board members, may be considered when scheduling subcommittee meetings.

Additionally, student board members must be invited to attend functions of the board, such as forums, meetings with students and parents/guardians and other general assemblies. Student board members may also, at the board’s discretion, receive elective course credit for their service. If the board finds that the student board member’s duties are not being fulfilled, AB 709 authorizes the board to appoint another student to serve as an alternate student board member. In such cases, the board is required to suspend the prior student board member’s rights and privileges related to service on the board.

To better equip student board members to fulfill their roles, boards are encouraged to provide learning opportunities to student board members through trainings, workshops and conferences. CSBA offers training for student board members at its Annual Education Conference and Trade Show, during which students are introduced to the principles of good governance, share ideas on best practices and build networks among their peers.

Other ways to foster students in their roles as student board members are to provide information to student board member candidates to provide an understanding of the position prior to taking it on, and to give incoming student board members an orientation designed to build knowledge of the district and an understanding of the responsibilities and expectations of the position.

In developing or revising board bylaws regarding student board members, boards are encouraged to review CSBA’s updated sample board bylaw 9150 – Student Board Members, along with resources available through the following organizations: