The SSAC was established by the Massachusetts State Legislature with Chapter 1009 of the Acts of 1971 as one of the first organizations to provide for direct student involvement in statewide decision-making in education. Then Governor Francis W. Sargent filed this legislation stating, "If we are to replace confrontation with deliberation and shouting with dialogue, youth must be invited in, not shut out. We have ... a climate where young and old can sit together, talk, and listen." Through students' voices, as represented on the Board of Education, Massachusetts has displayed the value it places on student involvement in the educational decision making process.
In its 40+ years of existence, the SSAC has written, filed, & lobbied for passage of a number of laws that affect students. These laws have included the amendment to include sexual orientation in Chapter 622 the anti-discrimination law that protects students based on race, sex, religion, color, national origin. Other SSAC sponsored and enacted legislation has included C.71, S.13 - Curriculum Innovation (right to petition for a course); C.71, S.38M - Student Advisory Committee to School Committees; C.71, S.82-85 - Student Bill of Rights (freedom of expression, rights as to personal dress, discipline, regulations).
SSAC has also lent its support to legislation regarding bullying prevention, busing to desegregate schools, the gay rights bill, sexual harassment protection, and violence prevention education.
SSAC has proven that students can have an impact on education. Through group decision-making, students decide the structure, goals, & activities of the council. SSAC has served as the model for other states, organizations and countries that want to actively involve students. They see SSAC as a pioneering and powerful ally.
SSAC has produced documents to provide students with ideas and resources to help them as active participants in the democratic process. These documents include Check It Out: A Student Guide to Rights and Responsibilities; Student Guide to Special Education; and Do You Want Condoms Available in Your Schools? SSAC has also lent its support to the creators of: Working with Your School Committee: A Student Guide; The Student's Guide to Lobbying; Leading the Way: A Handbook for Student Government Officers; and A Guide in Reviewing Student Handbooks. These documents have also provided adults working with youth an opportunity to actively engage students in the decision-making process.
SSAC has sponsored conferences and workshops for students addressing such issues as student rights and responsibilities, biases, and Education Reform; organized speak outs and rallies urging passage of Education Reform and the law to prohibit discrimination against students (C.622); as well as producing a public service announcement addressing diversity.
SSAC members have participated in deliberations, as equal partners with adults, regarding the development of the Education Reform Act, the Curriculum Frameworks, and the recommendations on Time & Learning.
SSAC members have also participated in the committees established to search for the Commissioner of Education as well as the selection committees for Teacher of the Year, the U.S. Senate Youth Program and the Christa McAuliffe Fellowship.
Last Updated: February 8, 2013
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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