On September 25, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed two bills aimed at giving a stronger voice to student board members of school district governing boards. Assembly Bill 261 confers voting rights upon all student board members, while Senate Bill 468 enhances a student board member's access to board materials. Both bills go into effect on January 1, 2018.
Assembly Bill 261: Voting Rights for All Student Governing Board Members
Existing law requires the governing board of a school district with one or more high schools, upon the receipt of a pupil petition for pupil representation, to order the inclusion of at least one student board member. The petitioner may request that the board add either a nonvoting student member or a preferential voting student member. Preferential voting rights give a student board member the right to vote on motions before the other board members vote, but the student's vote is not considered in determining whether a motion passes. Assembly Bill (AB) 261 amends Education Code section 35012, subdivision (d) to provide all student board members preferential voting rights.
The bill maintains the existing requirement that a student board member's vote be cast before the official vote of the governing board. Even though the student board member's vote does not count toward the final numerical outcome of the vote, it must be recorded in the meeting minutes. This procedural order is intended to ensure that student board members' opinions are taken into account before a board vote.
Senate Bill 468: Students to Receive More Timely Access to Board Materials
Senate Bill (SB) 468 amends Education Code section 35012 to require that school districts provide open meeting materials to student board members at the same time as other school board members. The bill also requires school officials to invite student board members to any staff briefings provided to other board members, or to provide a separate staff briefing to student board members within the same time frame as other board members' briefings. While the changes will provide student members more timely access to information, the bill's provisions are limited to open meetings and do not provide student members the right to attend closed sessions or receive information related to closed sessions.
These new bills are intended to enhance the role of student school board members. Any school district that has a student board member will be required to grant him or her preferential voting rights and can no longer have student members who are nonvoting. The student board member's preferential vote must be cast before the official board vote. Any open meeting materials or briefings that are provided to school district board members must also be provided to the student board member in the same time frame.
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