The following update was shared on March 17th:
Update on the lawsuit!
First, THANK you for all the messages wishing us luck for the hearing yesterday. We finally got time to sit down and write an update.
The short update: we don’t have a ruling yet. It’s coming in writing.
The longer update: the hearing was a bit delayed to begin as many people came to view on Zoom… interest seems to be HIGH as many want to know if a student can keep voting on major issues.
We think it’s cut and dry that a minor, elected by 11-17 year-olds, who is restricted from voting on budget and personnel by the General Assembly, should NOT be voting on if/when 56,000 students go back to their schools.
And a few things to remember: There are 20 SMOBS in Maryland. Only 7 have voting rights. HoCo one of them. And when the Student is able to vote, the Board has to have a Super Majority of 5-3 to pass anything, so just the mere presence of the ability of the vote from the Student on reopening complicates the issues…rather than just letting the 7 adults in the room make a decision with a 4-3 vote.
Our legal argument is….the SMOB as BOE member is unconstitutional according to the Maryland Constitution (which states you need to be 18 to be an elected official, and voted in by 18+).
But alas the judge, who was incredibly friendly, started off the hearing by stating he was inclined to agree with the Board. This was in his OPENING remarks. Clearly Tony had his work cut out for him with the Judge STARTING the proceeding that way.
Tony Conti was amazing, incredibly well prepared, and we are very thankful he’s willing to take on this fight pro-bono. He’s fighting alongside all of us on behalf of our kids.
The BOE’s argument is, the Student is “appointed”, not “elected”.
The Judge suggested by his questions that the General Assembly has full authority to determine who makes that appointment – whether it’s 11-17 year olds, or whomever else, nor are there age limits for appointed persons.
The Judge’s questions also suggested the political winds blow in favor of supporting a student voice.
I feel the need to repeat here, Kim and I have never felt the Student Member shouldn’t have a voice, we have always very simply felt a minor, who isn’t able to vote on budget or personnel, shouldn’t be able to vote on school re-opening plans for 56,000 children. Seems common sense to us.
Personally, we also question why the adults in the room are stretching and straining to make sure the Student has a vote on this issue and whether there is something else here afoot? Perhaps the Board Members are fighting so hard because they need that student vote to pass certain agenda items they couldn’t get if only adults voted….but I digress….
The net net is, we don’t have a ruling yet, the Judge wants to do it in writing. We can’t say when we will get it, but we hope soon.
The hearing also revealed that if the SMOB is “elected” all of the parties agree it would be unconstitutional. Despite the fact that the statute creating the SMOB position says the position is “elected” four different times, the Court could still rule it is an appointment.
If there is any doubt on whether the SMOB is elected or appointed, all you need to do is check your school e-mails from HCPSS about the upcoming SMOB ‘election’.
On a related note, another lawsuit was filed in Federal Court (on the very same day as our hearing, 3/16) challenging the federal Constitutionality of the SMOB position.
Whether the Board members agree with these challenges or not, it should serve as a wakeup call. Clearly, the BOE is doing something horribly wrong to the students in Howard County when it has moved MULTIPLE parents to file lawsuits, THOUSANDS of parents to mobilize against its actions and made NATIONAL news highlighting these failures.
Howard County schools USED to make national news for positive achievements.
If any of this drives you to action – please consider e-mailing the State Board of Ed Superintendent and telling Dr. Salmon Superintendent Martirano isn’t willing to fully open in the fall with 6-feet of social distance guidance and to please help out our county. Karen.firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott E’s Blog has published the following updates to this story over the past few months:
- December: Parents file lawsuit against Howard County school board to unravel gridlock preventing children from returning to school
- December: A group of 17 former Student Members of the Howard County Board of Education released a statement in support of current SMOB Zach Koung
- January: Parents provide an update about their lawsuit against the Howard County school board
- January: The Howard County Board of Education Secures Pro Bono Legal Counsel for SMOB Lawsuit
- February: Parents provide an update about their lawsuit against the Howard County school board – February 10th
- February: Venable Files Amicus Brief Opposing Attempt to Strip Howard County Board of Education Student Member of Voting Rights
- March: Parents lawsuit against Howard County school board regarding voting rights of the student member heads to court today
When I hear about the ruling I will be sure to update the readers of the blog.