Why aren’t students tuning in?

Phia Huebner, Writer

I have always heard about the school board meetings. The yelling and the controversial opinions are the only things that ever reached my ears, but I was never interested enough to watch the live stream or ever consider attending a monthly meeting. As I watched the school board meeting from September 27th on our district’s Youtube channel, I couldn’t help but wonder if these were issues the student body at our high school even spared a thought to. Some of these issues are incredibly prevalent to us today, yet most of us are unaware of what goes on in that boardroom. 

For example, the first person to speak at this meeting was Jeff Decker, a science teacher at New Prague High School. He spoke of the gratitude he felt for the overwhelming support his family has received after his son was diagnosed with cancer. He thanked his friends, family, New Prague staff, and lastly he thanked the students at New Prague High School for the football game we dedicated to his son, Mason Decker. It was heartwarming to know that the student body’s unifying efforts to give support to a family going through a tough time were successful and made a difference. Unfortunately, I don’t think most of the student attendees at the green-out football game will ever hear Mr. Decker’s kind words or have any idea of the lasting impact we, as a student body, have made. 

Heartwarming stories aren’t the only important thing that the student body is missing at these meetings. After Mr. Decker spoke, there was a common theme with the parents who spoke up in the open forum setting of the board meeting. Some common topics were masks, vaccine mandates, critical race theory, comprehensive sex education, quarantine policies, and the quality of education being received in the New Prague school district. The parents all spoke with passion and conviction, which tells me that we have some very dedicated parents representing us at those board meetings. Most of these parents are representing their kids that are either too young or unable to represent themselves on these issues, but we high school students can represent ourselves and our points of view on issues that are important to us. So why aren’t we? 

One parent spoke of the lasting effect of Covid-19 on mental health in people ages 11-17. We are in that age group. We are living the effects of this pandemic and we are all fighting against the rising number of mentally ill teens. Our words on the issue of teen mental health and ways that the school district can provide support would only strengthen the argument that students need more mental health support. This issue is relevant and important to many of us, and we could make a difference by speaking up. 

Science Teacher John Novak spoke up at this meeting about the importance of focusing on the real issues in this school district. He argued that these unending debates about Critical Race Theory and masks are causing parents to lose sight of what’s important: the education, well-being, and safety of students. One quote of his that stuck out to me was, “We have put our kids as pawns in a political debate that is nothing more than a noisy distraction from the real issues facing our nation in public school.” Although this statement may be controversial, I believe that there is a truth that we can all agree on in his words. We high school kids can speak for ourselves now. We have that power, and I wonder why I have never thought to use it. Why not speak for ourselves?

I will not speak for either side of the controversial issues that are facing the school board today, but I will encourage the student body to get involved. These issues mean so much to your parents, but they aren’t only our parents’ issues, they are our issues too. What is stopping us from showing up to those meetings to speak for ourselves offering our point of view? Our words can make a difference. All we have to do is decide if we care enough to speak up.