High school students in California have their own voting representative, appointed by the governor, on the State Board of Education.
They are required to take only two years of physical education now, instead of the four years that were formerly required.
Their views on various issues are sought out by teachers, and they are often allowed to participate on school district committees and commissions, as recommended by the state board.
They even have their own representative on the California Commission on AIDS.
Who is responsible for all these advancements in students' responsibilities and rights? Ask Clark Moore, a junior at University High School in Irvine. Moore is also state director of the Student Advisory Board on Education, which presents student proposals for changes in the state's education system.
"SABE is the only recognized student organization in California that has the privilege of annually addressing the state board," Moore said. "Therefore, it gives students the opportunity to directly bring about educational changes."
The student advisory board is a major program of the California Assn. of Student Councils, which offers leadership programs for elementary, middle and high school student councils.
High school students head all levels of the student advisory board program--on the school campus, regional and state levels. The process for change begins in the schools, where students write proposals--some as simple as asking for better food in the cafeteria. If the proposals are limited to one school or district, that's where the solutions are sought, with the students taking their requests through the proper channels.
Some proposals are more far-reaching and are sent on to the regional level, where they are handled at one of 18 regional student advisory board conferences. From there, the proposals may find their way to the student council associations's state conference, held over five days in March in Sacramento. There, students select the eight most promising proposals and divide the delegation for research and writing. The groups then present the completed proposals to the State Board of Education.
"We believe that students do have valuable input and good ideas," said Moore, whose duties include coordinating the state conference. "We can facilitate those ideas better because we have an insight into the education process."
Student advisory board members, who had a hand in proposing the state lottery, are presently working on proposals to require districts to hire more counselors. They also want foreign language classes inaugurated in elementary schools and suspension abolished as a punishment for truancy.
The student council association is involved in co-sponsoring Earth Train--a railroad journey between California and Washington. The trip, scheduled in April, will teach students about environmental problems. Moore said the goal by journey's end is to have student-written proposals that will then be presented to Congress and, perhaps, the United Nations.
Moore's interest in student government began when he served as a seventh-grade representative and eighth-grade treasurer on his middle school's student council. At University, he has been freshman class treasurer and student representative to the Irvine Board of Education. He also has served on the Parent Teacher Student Assn., the School Site Council and the Principal's Council. Presently, he is government operations director/parliamentarian for the student council.
He became involved at the state level during his sophomore year, when he attended a student advisory board conference. There, he won a scholarship to attend the studetn council association camp that summer. Moore later applied for the student board director's position and was appointed by CASC student state President Katie Sternfels, a senior at Lodi High School.
Other Orange County high school students involved with the student council association at the state level include Vice President Refugio Plascencia, a senior at Los Amigos; elementary director Vicky Parente, a senior at Laguna Hills; and Government Operations at Local Levels director Anne Bui, a senior at Saddleback.
Moore, whose job with the student advisory board takes him all over the state, is often absent from school. But academics remain a priority for the A student. "I'm learning a lot about the educational system on my trips," he said. "It's a different kind of education. I'm learning a lot about leadership."
His current project is to establish a school student advisory board council at University--something he hopes will happen at every school in California.
"We'd like to see as many students involved as possible," Moore said. "And not just members of the student councils. While they have good ideas, it's good to hear from all the students."