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A group of 17 former Student Members of the Howard County Board (SMOB) of Education released this statement in support of current SMOB Zach Koung:

We are a community of leaders, technologists, organizers, politicians, academics, educators, students, and parents that share one common experience: serving as the Student Associate or Student Member of the Howard County Board of Education (SMOB).

The Student Associate position of the Board of Education of Howard County was established in 1988 to provide a seat at the table for a current student. Those who filled this role were able to participate in public discussion but were left without a voice when the time came for the Board to make a decision and act. After observing nearly 20 years of Student Members of the Board sharing thoughtful, informed, and well-developed contributions, Howard County residents decided it was time for the SMOB to be not only seen but also heard when it counts. Overwhelming support from the community resulted in 2007 legislation allowing the SMOB a limited vote on certain issues.

Today, as part of the only stakeholder group mentioned in the school system’s mission — students — the SMOB is the single board member who can speak from current, firsthand experience. The position brings a unique perspective to the Board as the one directly affected by its decisions, and this perspective merits the weight granted by a vote.

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As former SMOBs, we have spent the past 30 years supporting this voice and the growing Howard County student population, and we continue our work today. In a year that is challenging for all of us, the student voice is needed more than ever to ensure that the voice of Howard County Public School Systems’ (HCPSS) most important constituency is part of the decision-making process for our award-winning school system.

A recently-filed lawsuit threatens to strip the SMOB — and, as a result, HCPSS students — of their vote on matters before the Board. This lawsuit, filed after thirteen years after the establishment of the SMOB’s right to vote in state law, focuses solely on the current SMOB’s vote on virtual learning. A lawsuit aiming to completely strip voting rights from the SMOB due to a vote on a single issue sends an incredibly disheartening message to students of Howard County: “Your opinion matters, as long as the grown-ups agree with it.”

We stand in support of the Student Member of the Board position and of the present SMOB, Zach Koung. We uplift the voices of the students speaking out right now across Maryland, including the Howard County Association of Student Councils Officer Team, current SMOBs, and the students and adult allies across the county and state.

We are with you.

Marcy Leonard 1988 – 1989

Jamie Kendrick 1992 – 1993

Monica Simonsen, Ph.D. 1995 –1996

Rebecca Gifford Goldberg 1997 – 1998

Courtney Carter (Dredden)1999 – 2000

Jamie Martin 2003 – 2004

Jeff Amoros 2004 – 2005

Jeff Lasser 2005 – 2006

Adejire Bademosi 2008 – 2009

Josh Manley 2009 – 2010

Cole Rosenberg 2012 – 2013

Rick Mikulis 2014 – 2015

Rachel Lin 2015 – 2016

Griffin Diven 2016 – 2017

Anna Selbrede 2017 – 2018

Ambika Siddabathula 2018 – 2019

Allison Alston 2019 – 2020

*DISCLAIMER — The opinions expressed in this letter are that of solely the authors and not representative of any organization, corporation or entity to which they are affiliated.

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Scott E

2 COMMENTS

  1. I think the message for me is that the entire board including smob needs to respect the fact that parents voices matter too and they seemingly disregard the surveys and imo lack a little transparency in regards to them

  2. The letter is well written and makes some good points but it doesn’t change the fact that the 2007 law granting voting rights to the student member of the BOE almost certainly runs afoul of the state’s constitution.

    Maryland law requires that every member of the Howard County BOE be elected. However, the 2007 law establishes an election process whereby ineligible voters – sixth to eleventh graders – elect a candidate who is more than likely not registered to vote. The Maryland Constitution requires that all elections must be conducted by ballot, voters be 18 years of age, and candidates for office – including BOE seats – be registered voters.

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