Student representation

By Jenn Watt

Representation matters and it is especially apparent when times are tough and important decisions need to be made. It’s why our governing bodies should look like our population and why we should seek to diversify membership of our organizations to ensure we are capturing as many perspectives as possible.

Over the last month, student representation has shone at the Trillium Lakelands District School Board’s trustee meetings as school communities embark on a particularly difficult year, one that’s rife with challenges and calls for careful consideration.

At meetings leading up to September, trustees have been vocal at meetings, questioning decision making and keeping a critical eye on government policy that will greatly impact everyone from the teachers and bus drivers to the custodians and students across the board.

Those who have listened in to the meetings would be impressed to hear the kinds of issues being raised and in particular, the contribution the student trustees have made.

At a meeting in August, for example, student trustee Kaylee Kelly came prepared with a long list of questions for TLDSB administration, all derived from her peers’ concerns about the year to come in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Will students have access to their lockers? Will they still be engaging in extracurricular activities and sports? What about the capacity of change rooms for fitness and phys-ed? Vandalism has been bad in some school washrooms, with the importance of having them sanitized and functional to promote good hygiene, what will the board be doing about that? Will the breakfast program continue to run? Will secondary school students be allowed to switch their classes?

Each question was on point and likely wouldn’t have been raised by trustees who aren’t attending classes.

Last week, the importance of representation was again apparent as student trustee Ryder Lytle informed the board of a project the G7 student senate has embarked upon, gathering stories from students and staff about racism experienced at school.

“We know it is a real thing in our schools because Kaylee and I have experienced racism first-hand being visible minority students,” Ryder’s speaking notes read.

Those stories are to inform plans of action by the student senate and will be brought to the board to spur action and create a safer environment for all.
We’re living in a time with much to fret over, sometimes a perfect storm of anxiety-inducing exterior events, but there are also glowing lights of inspiration. The work of the students is one such light – and proof that representation matters.