Electing a dedicated, visionary school board member is one of the best things you can do to support high-quality schools in your community. Over the past few years, we have seen clips of tense school board meetings with long lines of people ready to speak for or against a particular issue. But outside of those moments, when all eyes are on the school board because of controversy, many do not know what role a school board plays or can play in the life of students and our communities.
What Does A School Board Do?
School boards hire and supervise the superintendent, approve and monitor the school-district budget, plan and fund school facilities, serve as the community’s voice regarding school policy, and advocate for the district at the local, state and federal levels. These are vital duties that shape the lives of all the young people in their jurisdiction, so when you have the chance, voting in school board elections is important to work. School board decisions are vital to our children’s safety, education and future.
In Mississippi, school boards are formed in a few different ways. Some school boards are appointed, some are elected, and some have both appointed and elected members. All county districts, all consolidated districts, and two county-wide special municipal school districts elect their school board members. Most school board members in municipal school districts are appointed by their city council members or board of aldermen.
The decision to elect or appoint each member starts at the polls. Whether you vote for the candidate directly, like in this year’s election, or vote for the official who appoints them, you have the power. And you must use it.
Mississippi Civic Engagement Roundtable member, the Parents’ Campaign, a public education advocacy organization, has invited all candidates in competitive races to complete a candidate questionnaire so that voters can compare the candidates’ positions on important issues. The candidates’ answers can be found here. Researching candidates and making a thoughtful, informed decision could be the difference in creating a safe, nurturing educational environment for our children.
What’s At Stake for 2022 Midterm Elections
According to the UN Convention on the rights of the child, Mississippi received an F rating and ranked 50th in child’s rights when it came to standards for child marriage, corporal punishment, child labor and juvenile justice. A school board contributes to this ranking because they can dictate policies around corporal punishment in our schools.
Corporal punishment is the practice of physically disciplining a student for certain violations. The method can vary, but most times, corporal punishment in our state is carried out by paddling a student. Proponents of corporal punishment believe that the practice will correct a student’s behavior, but this thinking is archaic and causes harm to our students. Corporal punishment teaches our young, impressionable students that violence is an acceptable method to solve conflicts or disagreements. In a world where armed individuals are increasingly walking around to cause harm and young people are struggling with conflict resolution without violence, this is not a message that needs to be driven home by educators and administrators.
Currently, more than 70 districts use corporal punishment in schools across Mississippi. Research shows that corporal punishment can increase aggression, lead to poor academic performance, negatively affect physical and emotional behavior, and weaken student-teacher relationships. Moreover, corporal punishment is always unfairly used on Black students. We see Black students are at least 51% more likely to have experienced corporal punishment while in school. On top of all those horrible things listed, research has shown that it is simply an ineffective form of discipline for students.
Students deserve to learn in an environment where they are not at risk of being traumatized because a teacher or administrator can physically assault them. School boards can end this practice and protect our students. The safety of our students rests in many of their hands, and it is critical we elect board members who create policies that help students instead of harming them.
When you cast your ballot, you can make a difference in the lives of so many children. Contact your circuit clerk and make sure you are ready to vote. Vote today, November 8, 2022, because our children’s safety, well-being, and futures are on the ballot.
This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and sources fact-checking the included information to [email protected] We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.