Incorporating A Student Perspective into the State Board of Education Decision Making Process

Tuesday, February 27, 2024 | 01:00pm
Student Member 2024

Although the number of students engaged in state policymaking has grown nationally, we must continue to build on the momentum toward elevating student voice and leadership. According to the National Association of State Boards of Education, Tennessee is one (1) of seven (7) states where a student sits on the Board as a voting member to offer a unique platform for raising student issues in education policy and practice.

The Tennessee State Board of Education Rule 1.200 Board Members outlines the requirements for student member representation. The Board is required to have one (1) appointed public high school student member and he/she shall serve a one (1) year term unless the student member was first appointed during his/her junior year of high school and is re-appointed by the Governor for a second one (1)-year term during the student’s senior year of high school. 

The student member appointment process also requires engagement on a local level. Though the Governor’s office makes the final selection, local school districts play a significant role. TCA 49-1-301 (a) (6) specifies that local school boards may nominate no more than one outstanding Tennessee junior or senior student each year from their district. The local board can nominate by resolution and send the resolution to the governor’s office along with the relevant contact information.

Once a school district submits a nomination, the Governor’s office conducts several rounds of extensive interviews before a selection is made and a new student member is appointed. Nominations are due by May 1, 2024, to the office of the Governor.

Our current student member, Ms. Laurel Cox, is a senior at Cascade High School in Bedford County, Tennessee. Ms. Cox attended her first Board meeting recently and excelled when given opportunities to offer insight to her adult peers and recommend actions.

“Serving as the student member gives me the chance to advocate for Tennessee’s diverse student population,” said Laurel Cox. “During my first in-person meeting, it was clear that my perspective is needed to show how the State Board rules and policies can affect a student’s post-secondary success.”

As for Ms. Cox’s background, she is actively involved in the National FFA Organization. She formerly served as the 2022-2023 Middle Tennessee FFA Regional President as a junior, working closely with Tennessee leaders in agriculture. She has held various leadership positions within Cascade FFA, actively working to encourage all students to pursue education in agriculture.

With the academic year entering the second semester, the State Board encourages all school districts to nominate a student who exemplifies leadership qualities and meets the qualifications to serve as our student member.  When youth voices are truly listened to and reflected in policy decisions, it can have a positive impact on Tennessee’s public education system.