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Archived Information

Working With Your School Committee:
A Student Guide

Appendix Two: Recommendations For the Election and Operation of Student Advisory Committees to School Committees and Applicable Laws

Citizenship in a democratic society is meaningful when there is effective participation by individuals in its political, economic, and social institutions. Effectiveness is enhanced through knowledge of these institutions, by acceptance of responsibility for living within and improving them, by familiarity with the methods of effecting change, and by respect for the civic attitudes and behavior of others. Citizenship in a political sense means abiding by the law and seeking to change that law when it is no longer an expression of the accepted standard of the society it serves.

The task force members see the student advisory committee to the school committee as an integral and important part of the effort to achieve this goal. The following has been formulated with that goal in mind, and we therefore urge careful consideration of these recommendations for the election and operation of student advisory committees.

The recommendations are divided into three sections: Section 1 contains general statements of the purpose of this task force, and of student advisory committees; Section 2 contains the recommendations themselves; Section 3 includes sample forms and other pertinent materials for use in implementing Section 2.

I. Purpose of Student Advisory Committees

To provide for a meaningful link and to promote a mutual sense of respect and understanding between the student body and the school committee.

To represent before the school committee the attitudes, interests, and concerns, both positive and negative, of the student body.

To advise the school committee and add insight to their deliberations.

To carry to the school committee and to support specific proposals and items of concern to the student body, and to initiate, on behalf of the student body and in conjunction with the student government, projects and proposals for presentation to the school committee.

To inform the student body of the functions and workings of the school committee.

To represent to the school committee a cross-section of the entire student body.

II. Election Process

Student advisory committee members should be elected by the student body of the high school or high schools in the manner specified in paragraphs A thru F. They should not be appointed or elected by the administration, faculty, or any student organization.

  1. The student advisory committee shall be composed of five students. The members should be the five students receiving the greatest number of votes in general election by the student body, in which all registered students should have the right to vote.

  2. All candidates should be registered students at the time of voting.

  3. All registered students should be eligible to vote. All registered students with the exception of seniors should be eligible to run for office.

  4. All candidates should receive, complete, and return a nomination paper before their name is to be placed on the ballot.

  5. The election should be held at the same time as the regular school committee election, if such school committee election falls between March and May, inclusive. If the regular school committee election does not occur at this time, the student advisory committee should be elected between March 1 and April 15.

  6. In the case where a school committee has more than one high school under its jurisdiction, each such high school should elect from one to four of the student advisory committee members. The number of student advisory committee members from each school should be the number whose proportion to five is closest to the high school's enrollment proportion of the total enrollment of the high schools under said school committee's jurisdiction.

III. Officers

There should be, at the minimum, a chairperson and a recorder/secretary for the student advisory committee. Each student advisory committee should have the power to establish, at its discretion, other officers as needed. All officers should be chosen by the student advisory committee members, not in a general election by the student body.

  1. The responsibilities of the chairperson, or his/her designee, should be to:

    1. Attend every regular and special open school committee meeting. If unable to attend, it should be his/her responsibility to secure another student advisory committee member to serve as his/her designee.

    2. Add items to the school committee's agenda, after approval by the other student advisory committee members. Said items should be added in accordance with the school committee's own procedures.

    3. Be the official representative of the student advisory committee.

    4. Meet with the superintendent and the principal on a regular ongoing basis, in order to inform them of the activities of the student advisory committee, and to gather suggestions and reactions.

    5. Establish and maintain liaisons with the advisor to the student government, faculty members, and appropriate outside organizations.

  2. The following should be responsibilities of the chairperson subject to the approval of the school committee.

    1. Receive a copy of all non-confidential materials, The chairperson may receive certain confidential materials at the school committee's discretion. The chairperson may disseminate appropriate non-confidential school committee materials to student advisory committee members, either as individuals or as a group.

    2. Attend certain school committee executive sessions, only at the discretion of the majority of the school committee members.

    3. Participate as a non-voting member of the school committee, consistent with paragraph above.

  3. The responsibilities of the recorder/secretary, or his/her designee, should be to:

    1. Keep the appropriate minutes and other records of all student advisory committee meetings.

    2. Deal with all incoming and outgoing correspondence with the school committee and other groups and individuals.

    3. Assist the chairperson with his/her responsibilities.

IV. General Recommendations

  1. Each student advisory committee should have a workshop at the beginning of term. The workshop should include components of:

    1. Leadership Training
    2. Group Dynamics
    3. Agenda Building
    Technical assistance for such a workshop is available at no cost from:
    Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02418 (781) 338-3000 or the Office of Student Leadership (781)-338-3205.

  2. The student advisory committee should hold periodic open meetings for the purpose of reporting to students, faculty, administration, parents and other interested person the activities of the student advisory committee, and in order to answer questions and receive input about the committee's activities.

  3. School districts should on request make information available to student advisory committee members on matters such as:

    1. Parliamentary procedure and the conduct of school committee meetings (Appendix 5).

    2. The authority and powers of the school committee.

    3. The organization of the school committee (e.g., officers, sub-committees, ex-officio members).

    4. The laws and policies concerning executive session and open meetings.

    5. Definitions and descriptions of certain appropriate terms, agencies and organizations.

  4. The student advisory committee members should remain in close contact with the student government and its officers, and with the delegates to the Student Advisory Council. Close cooperation and communication should be maintained, although the three organizations should retain a reasonable degree of autonomy.

  5. The student advisory committee should maintain a degree of awareness and sensitivity to concerns and interests of students of other age levels within the school system, and should represent those concerns and interests to the school committee when appropriate.

V. Student Advisory Committee Data Sheet

VI. Applicable Laws

Chapter 71: Section 38M. Student advisory committees.

Section 38M. School committees of cities, towns and regional school districts shall meet at least once every other month, during the months school is in session, with a student advisory committee to consist of five members to be composed of students elected by the student body of the high school or high schools in each city, town or regional school district.

The members of such student advisory committees shall, by majority vote prior to the first day of June in each year elect from their number a chairperson who shall serve for a term of one year. Said chairperson shall be an ex-officio, nonvoting member of the school committee, without the right to attend executive sessions unless such right is expressly granted by the individual school committee. Said chairperson shall be subject to all school committee rules and regulations and shall serve without compensation.

Chapter 39: Section 23B. Open meetings of governmental bodies.

Section 23B. All meetings of a governmental body shall be open to the public and any person shall be permitted to attend any meeting except as otherwise provided by this section.

No quorum of a governmental body shall meet in private for the purpose of deciding on or deliberating toward a decision on any matter except as provided by this section.

No executive session shall be held until the governmental body has first convened in an open session for which notice has been given, a majority of the members have voted to go into executive session and the vote of each member is recorded on a roll call vote and entered into the minutes, the presiding officer has cited the purpose for an executive session, and the presiding officer has stated before the executive session if the governmental body will reconvene after the executive session.

Nothing except the limitation contained in this section shall be construed to prevent the governmental body from holding an executive session after an open meeting has been convened and a recorded vote has been taken to hold an executive session. Executive sessions may be held only for the following purposes:

  1. To discuss the reputation, character, physical condition or mental health rather than the professional competence of an individual, provided that the individual involved in such executive session has been notified in writing by the governmental body, at least forty-eight hours prior to the proposed executive session. Notification may be waived upon agreement of the parties. A governmental body shall hold an open meeting if the individual involved requests that the meeting be open. If an executive session is held, such individual shall have the following rights:

    1. to be present at such executive session during discussions or considerations which involve that individual.

    2. to have counsel or a representative of his own choosing present and attending for the purpose of advising said individual and not for the purpose of active participation in said executive session.

    3. to speak in his own behalf.

  2. To consider the discipline or dismissal of, or to hear complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member, or individual, provided that the individual involved in such executive session pursuant to this clause has been notified in writing by the governmental body at least forty-eight hours prior to the proposed executive session. Notification may be waived upon agreement of the parties. A governmental body shall hold an open meeting if the individual involved requests that the meeting be open. If an executive session is held, such individual shall have the following rights:

    1. to be present at such executive session during discussions or considerations which involve that individual.

    2. to have counsel or a representative of his own choosing present and attending for the purpose of advising said individual and not for the purpose of active participation.

    3. to speak in his own behalf.

  3. To discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining or litigation if an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the bargaining or litigating position of the governmental body, to conduct strategy sessions in preparation for negotiations with nonunion personnel, to conduct collective bargaining sessions or contract negotiations with nonunion personnel.

  4. To discuss the deployment of security personnel or devices.

  5. To investigate charges of criminal misconduct or to discuss the filing of criminal complaints.

  6. To consider the purchase, exchange, lease or value of real property, if such discussions may have a detrimental effect on the negotiating position of the governmental body and a person, firm or corporation.

  7. To comply with the provisions of any general or special law or federal grant-in-aid requirements.

  8. To consider and interview applicants for employment by a preliminary screening committee or a subcommittee appointed by a governmental body if an open meeting will have a detrimental effect in obtaining qualified applicants; provided, however, that this clause shall not apply to any meeting, including meetings of a preliminary screening committee or a subcommittee appointed by a governmental body, to consider and interview applicants who have passed a prior preliminary screening.

  9. To meet or confer with a mediator, as defined in section twenty-three C of chapter two hundred and thirty-three, with respect to any litigation or decision on any public business within its jurisdiction involving another party, group or body, provided that: (a) any decision to participate in mediation shall be made in open meeting session and the parties, issues involved and purpose of the mediation shall be disclosed; and (b) no action shall be taken by any governmental body with respect to those issues which are the subject of the mediation without deliberation and approval for such action at an open meeting after such notice as may be required in this section.

    This section shall not apply to any chance meeting, or a social meeting at which matters relating to official business are discussed so long as no final agreement is reached. No chance meeting or social meeting shall be used in circumvention of the spirit or requirements of this section to discuss or act upon a matter over which the governmental body has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power.

    Except in an emergency, a notice of every meeting of any governmental body shall be filed with the clerk of the city or town in which the body acts, and the notice or a copy thereof shall, at least forty-eight hours, including Saturdays but not Sundays and legal holidays, prior to such meeting, be publicly posted in the office of such clerk or on the principal official bulletin board of such city or town. The secretary of a regional school district committee shall be considered to be its clerk and he shall file the notice of meetings of the committee with the clerk of each city or town within such district and each such clerk shall post the notice in his office or on the principal official bulletin board of the city or town and such secretary shall post such notice in his office or on the principal official bulletin board of the district. If the meeting shall be of a regional or district governmental body, the officer calling the meeting shall file the notice thereof with the clerk of each city and town within such region or district, and each such clerk shall post the notice in his office or on the principal official bulletin board of the city or town. The notice shall be printed in easily readable type and shall contain the date, time and place of such meeting. Such filing and posting shall be the responsibility of the officer calling such meeting.

    A governmental body shall maintain accurate records of its meetings, setting forth the date, time, place, members present or absent and action taken at each meeting, including executive sessions. The records of each meeting shall become a public record and be available to the public; provided, however, that the records of any executive session may remain secret as long as publication may defeat the lawful purposes of the executive session, but no longer. All votes taken in executive sessions shall be recorded roll call votes and shall become a part of the record of said executive sessions. No votes taken in open session shall be by secret ballot.

    A meeting of a governmental body may be recorded by any person in attendance by means of a tape recorder or any other means of sonic reproduction or by means of videotape equipment fixed in one or more designated locations determined by the governmental body except when a meeting is held in executive session; provided, that in such recording there is no active interference with the conduct of the meeting.

    Upon qualification for office following an appointment or election to a governmental body, as defined in this section, the member shall be furnished by the city or town clerk with a copy of this section. Each such member shall sign a written acknowledgement that he has been provided with such a copy.

    The district attorney of the county in which the violation occurred shall enforce the provisions of this section.

    Upon proof of failure by any governmental body or by any member or officer thereof to carry out any of the provisions for public notice or meetings, for holding open meetings, or for maintaining public records thereof, any justice of the supreme judicial court or the superior court sitting within and for the county in which such governmental body acts shall issue an appropriate order requiring such governmental body or member or officer thereof to carry out such provisions at future meetings. Such order may be sought by complaint of three or more registered voters, by the attorney general, or by the district attorney of the county in which the city or town is located. The order of notice on the complaint shall be returnable no later than ten days after the filing thereof and the complaint shall be heard and determined on the return day or on such day thereafter as the court shall fix, having regard to the speediest possible determination of the cause consistent with the rights of the parties; provided, however, that orders with respect to any of the matters referred to in this section may be issued at any time on or after the filing of the complaint without notice when such order is necessary to fulfill the purposes of this section. In the hearing of such complaints the burden shall be on the respondent to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the action complained of in such complaint was in accordance with and authorized by section eleven A of chapter thirty A, by section nine G of chapter thirty-four or by this section. All processes may be issued from the clerk's office in the county in which the action is brought and, except as aforesaid, shall be returnable as the court orders.

    Such order may invalidate any action taken at any meeting at which any provision of this section has been violated, provided that such complaint is filed within twenty-one days of the date when such action is made public.

    Any such order may also, when appropriate, require the records of any such meeting to be made public, unless it shall have been determined by such justice that the maintenance of secrecy with respect to such records is authorized. The remedy created hereby is not exclusive, but shall be in addition to every other available remedy. Such order may also include reinstatement without loss of compensation, seniority, tenure or other benefits for any employee discharged at a meeting or hearing held in violation of the provisions of this section.

    Such order may also include a civil fine against the governmental body in an amount no greater than one thousand dollars for each meeting held in violation of this section.

    The rights of an individual set forth in this section relative to his appearance before a meeting in an executive or open session, are in addition to the rights that an individual may have from any other source, including, but not limited to, rights under any laws or collective bargaining agreements, and the exercise or nonexercise of the individual rights under this section shall not be construed as a waiver of any rights of the individual.



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Last Updated: January 1, 2000
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