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Guest Opinion: To create lifelong civic leaders: Lower the voting age

Original post made on Jul 26, 2019

Vote16 Palo Alto is a youth-run organization that has proposed lowering the voting age for Palo Alto school board elections to 16. I cannot think of a better opportunity to show the youth ow valuable their voices are.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 26, 2019, 6:57 AM

Comments (47)

22 people like this
Posted by Influencing young minds
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2019 at 7:56 am

I think this is a valid proposal, but I also think local elections are already too subject to manipulations. Students of 16 an 17 will be subject to being plied at school for votes by adults who are not going to be impartial, such as teachers and administrators whose salaries will be affected by the results.

Our elections already have too much power subtext (it's not really about affordable housing but whether large for-profit developers can bust zoning and make a lot of money evicting people at a trailer park and building a dense luxury development there and elsewhere, for example).

Instead of lowering the voting age, give the student representative or representatives a real vote for any matters that affect students (as opposed to salaries).


19 people like this
Posted by Influencing young minds
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2019 at 7:58 am

Also, starting a movement to help young people vote when they go off to college is easier and more directly effective at getting young people to vote than lowering the voting age. Our elections are controlled at the state level so the logistics will always be complicated, unless some group decides they will help young people overcome them as a matter of course.I


18 people like this
Posted by More Young Republicans
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 26, 2019 at 8:13 am

A lot of the young adults I talk to seem to have more integrity than a lot of our current voters. The arguments above border on ridiculous.


20 people like this
Posted by Adult-in-the-room
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 26, 2019 at 8:30 am

Lowering the voting age in any electoral process is about leveraging numerous children to achieve what adults can't be persuaded on.


19 people like this
Posted by Common SenserCup
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 26, 2019 at 12:01 pm

@ all Pro lowering age people: In the United States, if you have a 16 or 17 year old that has a well informed and objective knowledge of past and current political issues, and that would not cast a vote based upon youth-directed, or otherwise, media propaganda, from the left or the right, then you have a unique American teenager in your home. Most teens I knew as a teen and have known over the decades, is not! Most have interests such as hanging out with friends, finding that first true love, or slowly learning you aren’t the center of your universe! Maybe getting that first job to help save for college or at least to pay for those activities with friends. Do you see a common thread ? They are learning to be adults! They are not adults yet! Our government decided a person 18 is now legally an adult. Allowing 18 year olds legal adulthood and thus able to vote required a deep breath for the same reason- they are still consumed with sorting out adult responsibilities- and many remain dependent and supported! Funny thing this - we are allowing persons to make exceptionally serious voting decisions that affect millions of people’s lives but not letting them smoke a cigarette for another 3 more years.....or rent a car! To sum up, you want children under the legal age and who have never had any major life responsibilities to bear on their own, to cast a vote that will affect my life and others!


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Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 26, 2019 at 12:39 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Keep It At 18
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 26, 2019 at 1:25 pm

[Post removed.]


21 people like this
Posted by Pied Piper
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 26, 2019 at 1:48 pm

Pied Piper is a registered user.

The human brain is not fully developed until 26. [Portion removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2019 at 3:03 pm

It is an interesting idea, but, I'm not convinced of the benefits. I'm afraid too many teenagers will just vote the way their parents tell them. In Palo Alto, that generally is "liberal", but, that isn't true everywhere. Historically, young adults have often gotten caught up in authoritarian movements of one kind and another.

Keep arguing. Convince me of the benefits.


19 people like this
Posted by More Young Republicans
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 26, 2019 at 3:16 pm

> Most teens I knew as a teen and have known over the decades, is not! (sic)

Judging by the removed posts, I'm not so sure about those OVER 18.

> I'm afraid too many teenagers will just vote the way their parents tell them.

As teenagers always do exactly as their parents instruct. Always.


16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2019 at 3:21 pm

Why all the deletions? Mine has disappeared altogether without any sign of Post Removed.

How can a sane and sensible discussion take place when respectful posts raising relevant points can't be discussed.

This will now turn into a one sided conversation promoting the idea rather than allowing thought provoking debate.


16 people like this
Posted by Shounak Dharap
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2019 at 3:40 pm

Shounak Dharap is a registered user.

Voting should be a broadly inclusive right. 16 and 17 year olds will suffer the consequences of our elected leaders’ decisions far longer than anybody else. In the context of school district issues, their lifelong success is directly impacted by district decisions. If they are just as cognitively mature as 18 year-olds and have access to information about issues and education about critical thinking and analysis, they should have the right to make an informed choice about their future.

It’s a natural reaction to say “when I was 16, I wasn’t ready to vote.” But when most of us were 16/17, we hadn’t grown up having instant access to the entire collective of human knowledge at our fingertips and a forum to share ideas with virtually everyone on the planet. Youth's ability to engage on political issues is different now than it has been ever before. On top of that, 16 and 17 year-olds are neurologically mature enough to vote. “Cold cognition”—the type of cognition reflected in voting—is at the same developmental stage for 16 year-olds as it is for 21 year-olds.

16 and 16 year-olds are also participants in our society, the marketplace, and subject to many “adult” responsibilities. Here are some facts about the rights and responsibilities of 16 and 17 year-olds:
They have the right to drive and are responsible for road safety.
They pay taxes. In 2011 they paid $730 million in income tax.
They work without restrictions on hours. Over 1 million Americans under 18 have jobs.
They can be tried as adults and placed in adult jails.

The idea that 16/17 year-olds will vote with their parents is a natural concern, but it doesn’t bear out. During the Scottish referendum, almost half of the people under 18 voted differently than their parents. It’s also worth remembering that this was the same argument used in opposition to the 19th amendment (the argument that if women had the right to vote they would vote with their husbands). It devalues the cognitive capabilities of 16/17 year olds who, in this community, for example, are already active participants in local and national issues to the extent they are allowed to be. In fact, these youth (who are in civics and government classes) are demonstrably more knowledgeable about civics as compared to the general electorate—of which only 36% can name all three branches of government.

This age group also has a higher voter turnout than any other age group—especially 18 year-olds (as evidenced in Takoma Park, Maryland, Vienna, Norway, Scotland, and during the primaries in Chicago and Baltimore). This has a “trickle up” effect on civic participation. Where 16 and 17 year olds vote, their future turnout drastically increases, as does their parents’ turnout.

I’m very supportive of this idea and am looking forward to us having an engaged and informed discussion on the issue.


13 people like this
Posted by Republican
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 27, 2019 at 1:35 am

Obviously another transparent attempt to win more Democratic votes, just like allowing undocumented immigrants into our country, assuming they’ll vote for Democrats. The party is completely unhinged. Congress is not representing or serving the people, they have been having a temper tantrum for two years, still reeling from the presidential loss. NYC and CA are approaching anarchy due to the Democrats. I see a Red Wave approaching.


5 people like this
Posted by More Young Republicans
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 27, 2019 at 8:47 am

> another transparent attempt to win more Democratic votes

Another Republican who puts party before patriotism. Young voters will create lifelong republicans. Clearly, this poster has not had many in-depth discussions with young adults.

America needs more voters. Everyone bemoans low voter turnout.

> Congress is not representing or serving the people, they have been having a temper tantrum for two years,

The first two years under Trump was a REPUBLICAN led House. And yes, they threw a tantrum or two. Never came up with a replacement for ObamaCare. Only thing the GOP House and Senate passed was deficit busting, trillion dollar tax cuts for billionaires and corporations.

> NYC and CA are approaching anarchy

I grew up here. Poster came from somewhere else. Growing up, I was told CA was the 8th largest economy in the world. Ten years ago the 6th largest. Not any more.

It is now the 5th. Anarchy?

Facts are not a strong suit for the above poster.

Again, I suggest more in-depth discussions with young adults, and other informed Californians. Learn about principle before party, @republican.


16 people like this
Posted by Influencing young minds
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 27, 2019 at 11:14 am

@Shounak Dharap,
I believe this proposal is not about national elections but to allow 16/17 yr olds to vote only in local elections like school board. The school district would have to start treating 16/17 yr olds like adults before this would be workable.

For example, when a school-involved community member, K Jordan, tried to contact members of a student paper board for what she believed were important corrections to a serious issue, journalism students (no less) who were in a program for 11th graders and up (meaning, in our district, some of them would have been age 18 and over, and certainly all or almost all were 16 and over), the school leadership intervened basically saying how dare anyone in the community contact these fragile minor schoolchildren directly as if they were adults. This perspective was used to attack the candidacy of the aforementioned community member.

This situation speaks directly to whether students in school should vote in school district elections: It's disingenuous to say the adults in the schools, who have conflicts of interest when it comes to school district issues on the ballot, would not have undue influence on this population.

If journalism students on an editorial board who are 16+ (some probably 18+) are too fragile to discuss potential serious mistakes or misrepresentations in what they themselves decide to publish with members of the community, per the school district's official line in the above, then the district has no business discussing district election voting for students in school age 16/17. Given what happened in the above, and how the district doubled down on that position, then pushing for the vote in district elections for students in school is clearly an attempt to create a pool of voters the district can easily manipulate through the students' presence at school.

With all due respect Mr. Dharap, this is nothing like women's suffrage, starting with the fact that the students' education is compulsory and the state is basically requiring them to be in a situation in which they are not autonomous (as opposed to the misogynistic belief that adult women could not think autonomously).

Another way to look at it is that the local district only makes educational options available that limit the independence and autonomy of students in learning -- we have personally been denied access to independent study options that the district even offers to others, with the stated belief that they couldn't because it would open the door to others who want more independence, or that our gifted student who had executive function lags could not be successful with more control (which is exactly backwards). Until our district stops being so CONTROLLING of students and allows them even self-directed autonomy in learning where students are asking to have it, this conversation is a non-starter. I don't think the adults in this district are even capable of conceiving what independence in education for its students would be much less realizing it in actuality. If district leadership cannot even conceive of achieving intellectual independence for that age group, they have no business making decisions for the district in elections.

Furthermore, if teachers were not in a privileged position with young adults in school, it wouldn't have been so shocking for a teacher at Paly to have sex with an 18-year-old student where there was mutual consent. I am appalled by the situation, as most reasonable people are, because the teacher is in a position of authority and took advantage of it, irrespective of the student's intent.

You cannot have it both ways. The students in school are under the influence and authority of school/district adults, who clearly enjoy that privilege (even if just for the benefit of their teaching style and habits) and react negatively to anyone in the community treating said students as they would adults in the same situation.

The students may very well be able to vote in national elections but there are too many conflicts of interest and inappropriate influences on students in school voting in school district elections.

As for changing behavior for 18 year olds and getting more of them to vote, as has been suggested even in recent discussions on TS, if you want this, then roll up your sleeves and work at making it easier for individual kids off to college to figure out how to get registered and to place their votes. There are a huge number of logistical hurdles, including that it can be hard to figure out which state one is a resident of, and how a possible change in that aligns with election dates and registration. It can be a real mess to try to transfer registrations. There are many other logistical hurdles. You can make a difference by starting to work on that problem.


6 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Jul 28, 2019 at 12:34 pm

There should be a single defined age of adulthood which confers the following benefits:
- voting
- can join the army
- can get married
- can buy alcohol
- can buy cigarettes
etc.

18 seems like a good number to me.


3 people like this
Posted by unsolicited
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2019 at 7:35 pm

^ How about 18 year old U.S. President? One size does not fit all.


3 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 28, 2019 at 7:53 pm

I tend to not be convinced this is a good idea, and certainly not an answer to any particular problem.

I'd rather decide to let anyone at all vote, but they get a number of votes equal to some normalized mathetmatical function of their age, like the square root ( age 100 would be 10 votes ) or cube root ( age 100 would be 4 votes ) of their age, except that would be discriminatory too because minorities generally do not live as long as whites.

With the farce that our elections are I'd rather in parallel with what we have now have something like a poltical network like a government facebook where people must register, like social security, but can weigh in on specific issues, and if they do not like the available options can post their own suggestions.

Our system is getting so complex, and so corrupt, and the stakes so great that it simply cannot work because those at the top are terrified they will lose their positions, or fanatics about their own pet political ideas to the point they do not care what others think.

Most 18 year olds know little enough about national and international politics, I shudder to think about what they do not know about local politics.

Why don't we just fix the system we have now ... we have the lowest voter participation rate in the developed world.

When we are going to get fed up with always being the lowest at everything and then having to pay the most for it. Is people are not voting against that now, lowering the voting age seems unlikely to help.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 28, 2019 at 8:22 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

We have been told by every knowledgeable source that the human brain is not fully formed until at lest age 21 and possibly not until age 25. Children going through the growth cycle are very vulnerable and have a lot of changes going on in their bodies. I don't think that they should be voting until age 21. That is the age at which they reach legal adult hood.
There was an article about hiring teachers in the UC systems which was to insure that they were approaching their teaching with a specific political outlook. We already know that but it is surfacing up now as a point of discussion and is on the table since the UC system - specifically Berkley - is under fire for it's political approach to education.


5 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 28, 2019 at 10:03 pm

> We have been told by every knowledgeable source that the human brain is not fully formed until at lest age 21

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows , would you then favor of IQ or maturity tests to decide whether someone can vote or not?

I am not sure I believe it myself, but I could certainly debate the position that today's 16 year olds are more mature and intelligent on average than 21 year olds of 50 years ago, or that the voters or today might on a whole not be more mature or intelligent than the 16 year olds of today either.


19 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2019 at 10:34 pm

My take on 16 year olds is that most of them may be idealistic and easily impressed. At 16, they have no experience of making adult decisions, balancing their budgets, paying/filing taxes, paying household bills, and weighing pros and cons of relative issues. Whereas it is interesting to hear how high school children feel about the way their school is being run and issues that may affect their teachers and their education, it is most likely that being very impressionable they just may run with the crowd rather than think for themselves.

I would not be happy having 16 year olds voting as to whether I should be paying for a bond measure or a parcel tax that I have to pay on the whim of a feel good issue that will probably not come into effect until they have graduated high school.


14 people like this
Posted by Shounak Dharap
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2019 at 10:58 am

Shounak Dharap is a registered user.

@Resident yet renters vote on those same issues without having to bear the property tax burdens. Ownership of land stopped being a justification for voting privilege a long time ago.


13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2019 at 1:07 pm

@Shounak Dharap. Renters will pay for bond measures and parcel taxes as well as property taxes as reflected in their rent increases.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, except that most 16 and 17 year olds live rent free in their parents homes and have no idea how much property tax, or even rent, their parents pay.


6 people like this
Posted by More Young Republicans
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 29, 2019 at 1:37 pm

More Americans voting.

Don't listen to these elitists with all these hoity-toity fallacies.

Let the People vote!


7 people like this
Posted by Shounak Dharap
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2019 at 3:20 pm

Shounak Dharap is a registered user.

@Resident You're right that the financial burdens of bond measures and parcel taxes can get passed onto renters by way of the market, but that sort of gets away from the main point, which is this: Restricting the right to vote based on one's basis for voting or whether they have "enough of a stake" in the issue undermines the ideal of a presumptively inclusively electorate.

Everybody votes based on their own stake in the matter. Some people vote in school board elections solely based on the tax implications; others vote solely on the issues concerning their children; others vote solely on issues important to them and nobody else. When I was running for school board, an individual said he would not vote for me simply because I was of Indian descent. Obviously his basis for voting (or not voting, in this case) was entirely wrong-headed, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't get a vote.

While 16 and 17 year olds may not have the same sense of the fiscal impacts of school board decisions, they certainly have more relevant lived experiences than the average voter when it comes to education and student well-being in PAUSD. That viewpoint, in my opinion, is just as valuable when it comes to picking the people who will make long-lasting decisions on education and student well-being in this district.


12 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 29, 2019 at 7:46 pm

This is a terrible idea. Terrible. Children should not be choosing which adults are the leaders. I was prepping to go to the war in Vietnam when the argument was made ‘old enough to die for one’s country, old enough to vote’. It was a bad argument then and remains a bad argument. 18 year olds got the vote in 1971 and the consequences have not been good.
We have been extending youth now as late as 25 years. While the value of idealism can refresh our society it can also change it ways that are not well thought out, like free education, housing, medicine, etc. for everyone. Maturity, knowledge, real world experience, judgment, character, moral compass, are all needed when choosing leaders. The outcome of our shared challenges depends on our ability to select good leaders. It’s not a job for children.
I once owned a house on a hilltop which each year slid a little further off it’s foundation. The engineering solution cost almost more than the value of the house. The state of affairs in the country today remind me of that house.
Grown-ups needed. Hopefully, this idea will be roundly dismissed as childish folly.


23 people like this
Posted by Influencing young minds
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2019 at 12:38 pm

@Shounak Dharap,
The fact that you have responded without dealing with the greater problem of undue influence by school district adults and employees on the 16 and 17 years olds in school, and the inherent conflicts of interest -- and given all the ills we have suffered over the last many years because of employees and leaders acting in their own rather than in students' interests -- has given me pause about my vote for you in the last election.

Students in the district should not be given power over district matters in the vote unless they are intellectually independent, which is not only not the case, adults in the district whose salaries and other interests would be at stake, have proactively ensured it is not the case. The lack of innovation in education can be directly traced to the self-interest of adults in the district.

This is a power scheme, for a governmental body that already has too few checks and balances. If this is seriously pursued, expect people who have been unhappy about the insularity of school districts to finally rise up to make them more accountable locally instead. Good luck keeping legal costs down then.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2019 at 1:14 pm

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park

>> I'd rather decide to let anyone at all vote, but they get a number of votes equal to some normalized mathetmatical function of their age, like the square root ( age 100 would be 10 votes ) or cube root ( age 100 would be 4 votes ) of their age, except that would be discriminatory too because minorities generally do not live as long as whites.

If you are going to weight age, it will have to work better than the above. Based on 2016 election results, votes by men over 50 and women over 65 should be weighted far less, not more as you suggest.



8 people like this
Posted by Shounak Dharap
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2019 at 1:57 pm

Shounak Dharap is a registered user.

@Influencing young minds: In my mind, it goes without saying that any expansion of voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds will naturally have to come with stringent policies to prevent interference or undue influence by teachers, administrators, etc.

I want to point out that this is not a campaign proposed or even supported by the school district or board of education. It is a nationwide campaign with a local chapter completely run by 16 and 17 year olds in our community. When I met with these 16 and 17 year olds, at their request, I brought up your exact concern. They did not share it.

It sounds like you are advocating that we do a better job listening to our students. I agree, and that's precisely why I support this movement.


8 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 30, 2019 at 3:12 pm

Jim H is a registered user.

First order of business: Legalize vaping in schools for people 14 and over.


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2019 at 4:33 pm

> At 16, they have no experience of making adult decisions, balancing their budgets, paying/filing taxes, paying household bills, and weighing pros and cons of relative issues.

So true, but currently there are old people who get their interests looked after, and elites of rich old people who design the whole of society and the economy to make young people have to jump through all kind of hoops to provide them with income streams and make sure they cannot overturn the system to something different, maybe more altruistic even.

A lot of the issues you mention are things that are designed to trip people up. The system needs to change, and perhaps allowing younger people to vote will create media challenges to education and inform those who are not as experienced as others or any age .... after all that is what really needs to happen. Then there is the Internet and how it will change life and politics. If we just accept what is comfortable for older people again we miss an opportunity to change and to discuss.


8 people like this
Posted by yup suh
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2019 at 9:41 pm

Lower it. More voters. All good.


23 people like this
Posted by Influencing young minds
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2019 at 8:24 am

@Shounak Dharap,
You have still avoided dealing with the points I have now made in my two posts above starting with:
"The school district would have to start treating 16/17 yr olds like adults before this would be workable. … It's disingenuous to say the adults in the schools, who have conflicts of interest when it comes to school district issues on the ballot, would not have undue influence on this population.”

You wrote: "it goes without saying that any expansion of voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds will naturally have to come with stringent policies to prevent interference or undue influence by teachers, administrators, etc.”

You are really not getting the point and not addressing the issue.

It’s like saying that if we got rid of Congress and the lower courts, any expansion of executive power will naturally have to come with stringent policies to prevent lying and undue power by the executive branch.

We already have lots of policies in our school district that are utterly enenforceable to the detriment of our students and community. The fact that some in the community have felt they had to go to the federal government OCR over and over and the fact that the complaints came out of the woodwork the last time people felt they were protected enough to make them — despite years of OCR having to get involved already — in just one area (Title IX), indicates just how poorly our district feels compelled to follow policies and laws to prevent problems.

The fact that complaints to the OCR are usually the tip of the iceberg and that the board has done NOTHING but claim (after multiple trainwrecks) that turnover fixes everything yet has failed to take steps to protect families in other arenas so that EVERYONE (not just those with Title IX complaints) who has been treated unlawfully and detrimentally is equitably provided the free and appropriate education the law requires of the district, is ample demonstration that talk about putting in place “stringent policies to prevent interference” is just vague handwaving.

What do you do personally when you hear about, oh, problems like systematic retaliation that forces families to take their kids out of the schools? Ignore it because you personally like the administrators or until and unless some person gets a lawyer or goes to the OCR? Tell yourself that it’s okay because of nasty gossip that was part of retaliation you don’t want to acknowledge unless forced to? I don’t expect you to answer those questions honestly, but I hope they will give you pause, just a little bit, to consider that existing laws and policies don’t make YOU behave any better in light of unlawful district behavior, either, especially when it’s hard to do so.

THE WHOLE ACT OF SCHOOLING THESE KIDS IN THIS MODEL OF EDUCATION CONSTITUTES UNDUE INFLUENCE BY TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS. You can’t make a few policies to fix that where power is at stake. Unless you completely change the terms of compulsory education and the undue influence of adults in the Prussian model -- and lack of choices by students in this district to make intellectually independent educational choices — you cannot even begin to address the problem of undue influence on 16 and 17 year olds.

The fact that students are even pushing for this demonstrates an utter lack of power literacy, for which we can “thank" the schools. If students understood power — who decides — every 18-year-old in the country would do whatever it took to ensure they voted in every election and were knowledgeable not just about national but also local issues, and how the vote in local and state elections is desperately important to what happens nationally, too. Very few 16 and 17 year olds exercise their existing power in the public domain and government now, mainly because they don’t understand it.

Secondly, if young people understood power — who decides — they would first be trying to change the power structure of school boards so that they could influence individual issues that affect them. No one currently has that right, equivalent to referendum and initiative at the state level. No one currently has any of the levers at the school board level equivalent to what citizens have at other levels of government, including even in their PTA’s, except for the ability to vote for funding (which almost never fails regardless of how badly the district is serving its families) and for individuals for the board every so many years (which is hardly a lever on individual issues that families and students care about, as demonstrated amply by the past decades in our own district).

If students understood power literacy, they would understand that making change on individual issues and political culture (at any level, local, state, national) usually involves a good understanding of power and the exact details on the ground, truly hard work, effective communication with the public, and they already have the power to do that, they simply do not understand how power works.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love for students to be more engaged. They already have the power to do that, starting with using persuasion to help other students stop hearing the destructive message that their vote doesn’t count (because then no one bothers to vote, their age group gets ignored no matter how much they speak to power, and nothing changes).

But pushing for 16 and 17 year olds to vote in local school board elections is NOT going to achieve it. If they put their efforts into getting that vote, all it’s going to be is demoralizing when they realize just how little power they still have to influence the issues they care about. (Meanwhile, the adults for whom this is a power grab will be solidifying their unhealthy power due to their undue influence on school district elections.). Young people might first instead be trying to understand how uniquely insular school boards are power-wise and how to create better responsiveness and checks and balances, then proposing and pushing for those changes. Achieving that, if they learn the right lessons about being effective citizens in our democracy, will not hinge on whether they can vote for school board members.


10 people like this
Posted by Influencing young minds
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2019 at 8:26 am

Correction:

Naturally, I meant to say:

We already have lots of policies in our school district that are utterly UNENFORCEABLE to the detriment of our students and community.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2019 at 8:35 am

Students have school elections to choose class presidents, etc.

There are two student board members on PAUSD school board. How are these chosen? Are they the two senior class presidents from each high school?

If they are different individuals, how are these two individuals chosen? Are they elected?

If the idea is to get more student notice on school board then I think the simplest way is to make the students themselves have an election to choose the two student school board members. This should be a simple enough process for each school to implement. The prospective candidates can canvass the students and have a manifesto as to what issues could be brought to the school board. They could even have surveys about various issues. This could be a real tool for the school board to use when deliberating on an issue.

This would make most sense to me.


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Posted by Shounak Dharap
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 31, 2019 at 9:46 am

Shounak Dharap is a registered user.

@Influencing young minds. Historically, granting the right to vote to groups of people who are systematically oppressed by the existing power structure is precisely what has precipitated change in the system. Denying rights to minority voices because we don't trust that they'll be able to help themselves upend the status quo goes against the very ideal of presumptive inclusion in democratic self-governance.

I take every single report of retaliation or mistreatment seriously and if you or anyone you know has any issues, my cell phone number and e-mail address are publicly available on the PAUSD website (as is the contact information of every Board member).


14 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 31, 2019 at 1:30 pm

"Historically, granting the right to vote to groups of people who are systematically oppressed by the existing power structure is precisely what has precipitated change in the system."

LOL. High school students in Palo Alto are systematically oppressed. That's hilarious. I'm sure Paly students can lament how oppressed they are over lunch at Gott's Roadside and having Tin Pot for dessert.

Bwaaahahahahahahahahahahaha.


9 people like this
Posted by Influencing young minds
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2019 at 6:38 pm

@Shounak Dharap,
"I take every single report of retaliation or mistreatment seriously and if you or anyone you know has any issues, my cell phone number and e-mail address are publicly available on the PAUSD website (as is the contact information of every Board member)."

I have already called you and you did nothing and didn't bother to call me back despite promising you would. I have contacted other board members, and they never launched an investigation. I personally know of half a dozen families whose children were forced out of the district because of retaliatory behavior. Given that someone complaining to you about their children suffering real harm from being retaliated against for complaining is only risking more harm, are you expecting people to ask for more pain to no good end, or at some point to protect their children and just take the district's "hint" and leave? You do realize that only people with lots of money for advocates and lawyers get what they need in this district, still? (And by the way, *I* have the right to vote and it does squat for solving any of that, despite laws and facts -- and lots of documentation -- on my side.)

Let me guess, you think that your moral and legal responsibility to these students ends if the district is successful at forcing families and their children out? Out of sight, out of mind, eh? (Please read that again. It was not a rhetorical question.)

As to the vote in school board elections -- oppressed minority? Seriously? How are you taking the leap to describing 16 and 17 year olds in one of the richest districts in the state as being oppressed minorities? Please illuminate me as to the secret secret movements they have been involved in to counter this also secret oppression? You do realize that the power to change things -- which by the way, wouldn't be granted by this vote, but let's just go with it for a moment -- only makes a difference if people are working to change things? If we are talking serious oppression here, how is it that none of the many alleged helicopter parents cares enough to be involved in the movement either? They vote. You have just insulted women suffragettes and oppressed minorities everywhere in one swoop.

Again, we are talking just about a vote in a school district election, by students who the law requires to submit to the authority of the people who benefit by those elections. One has only to look at the fact that we have numerous administrators whose functions I'm guessing most Palo Altans couldn't reliably enumerate with a gun to their heads who make vastly more than the Governor of our state of 33 million people and the 5th largest economy in the world. Having the limited power of vote in school district elections can't even keep that in check. Even the state has a citizen board that adjusts the governor's salary. We can't even so much as have a citizens' board to make sure our bond money is spent efficiently. The rights are not equivalent at the different levels of government.

I can think of some actually oppressed students who have had their civil rights violated who have complained to the government, but I don't exactly see you or anyone in the district championing them.

What about the students with learning disabilities who actually are oppressed in our schools and are reaching out to you for help -- do you think giving them the vote at age 16 would undo a lifetime of being told they are stupid in the classroom because the district buried the elementary school report or systematically intimidated the parents when they asked for help? Because having the power to vote did nothing at all for their parents.

Having an ombudsman position to turn to, someone who actually works for families and answers to some other power structure than the school district, who can force the district to follow the law when it is being egregiously violated, equally for all students (not just those who can force the district with lawyers and advocates), and in a timely way, now THAT would end the oppression. Nothing about having a school district vote would ever ever make that happen.

If you care so much about the power of students in the district, YOU and your fellow board members currently have the power to give members of the community the power to overturn board decisions, say, with a certain number of signatures on a formal petition, in any given issue and by a defined formal process. I would be completely in favor of students even younger than 16 having the power to sign on for that kind of power. How about it? I will be looking forward to your proposal in September.


8 people like this
Posted by Influencing young minds
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2019 at 6:46 pm

"I take every single report of retaliation or mistreatment seriously and if you or anyone you know has any issues, my cell phone number and e-mail address are publicly available on the PAUSD website (as is the contact information of every Board member)."

@Shounak Dharap,

Actually, you know what? Please put your money where you mouth is in public, right here. If you take retaliation seriously, I challenge you to do your own digging into the reports and complaints of retaliation, and propose what you are going to do to protect people who have felt unsafe to pursue those complaints, or who even left because it seemed the only option to protect themselves and their children? What are you going to do to report past retaliatory behavior to the public, and hold those who engaged in it accountable? What are you going to do to make the school district proactive instead of only grudgingly responding to the few massochists willing to keep pushing?


5 people like this
Posted by Influencing young minds
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2019 at 7:12 am

@Shounak Dharap
One sign that you take reports of retaliation seriously might be an acknowledgement of having read my concerns and suggestions, and an intention to take up the issue with genuine interest in helping, instead of the typical silence from board or gossipy/gaslighty/retaliatory measures behind closed doors.


5 people like this
Posted by Influencing young minds
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2019 at 4:12 pm

Can someone please forward this thread to Shounak Dharap, he may have forgotten about it. He's made a statement about his commitment when it comes to victims of retaliation in this district, with nothing to back that up, and should respond.

He should listen to this Forum episode. Someone called in at the end that could have been us. I'll bet from Palo Alto. It bespeaks of another OCR entanglement unless Palo Alto stops sweeping things under the rug
Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Influencing young minds
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2019 at 12:56 am

“I take every single report of retaliation or mistreatment seriously and if you or anyone you know has any issues, my cell phone number and e-mail address are publicly available on the PAUSD website (as is the contact information of every Board member).”

Still waiting. This is so typical. At what point does PAUSD do some kind of failure analysis or truth and reconciliation so that we don’t just lurch between investigations and turnover again? At what point do you become proactive about correcting the damage done for overtly violating the child find provision of the IDEA for so long and only serving families who could afford lawyers against yours? At what point do you take responsibility for the children you hurt?

I have the vote, it gives me no power to give competence or conscience where they are needed.


Like this comment
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 8, 2019 at 10:17 pm

High school students in Colorado are supporting a state wide measure that would allow 16 & 17 year olds to vote in school board elections.

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Influencing young minds
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2019 at 7:47 am

@Paly Grad
Giving students the right to vote in National or even state elections is actually different than giving them school board votes, because from city to city across the state and country, the power of the citizenry in regards to schools is different and malleable.

Locally, if students are unhappy with various policies, having the right to vote for school bonds (which virtually always pass) and school board members every four years will give them almost no leverage on issues they care about ...here. That might be different in CO. We have no position of district ombudsman, and where they do, they might answer to an elected or appointed board or a superintendent or a mayor.

There has been a move in recent years for districts to end up under mayoral control and for districts to have appointed boards in those districts. In some districts, PART of the board is appointed and part is elected. Complicating matters, these changes in power can be subject to city referendum .

If students really want power, they should push the district to make a policy allowing the public to overturn a given decision if they provide enough signatures by local school families and students aged 16 and up. You could find a model for such rules in city government or in the PTA bylaws. The public currently has no such power.

Getting that power will depend a lot more on the volunteer energy to come up with a plan, get public support, and get the school board to adopt the rule. I would definitely be behind 16 and 17 year olds having THAT kind of power because even though the schools have direct influence, if students are strongly in disagreement with those who are in control in school, having such ability would give them power to change things. Having school district vote won’t ever confer such power or even the leverage to achieve it.

It is already possible for our school board to adopt rules giving the families in the district such power, I.e. giving students such power. Figuring out how to get the board to make such changes is the real lesson in where your power lies.

Above is a challenge to Shounak Dharap, since he has claimed to be so for the power of young people in school, to champion such a rule adoption locally. I would be 100% for such a rule. If the young people in this district truly want influence over specific policies affecting them, the real opportunity is getting the local school board to adopt such rules. Then you will see how people who say they support your power, like Mr. Dharap, really feel.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2019 at 7:58 am

I brought up above the idea of having schoolwide elections for the two student school board members. I have no idea how these student school board members are chosen, but a school election would make sense. If 16 and 17 year olds are interested enough in the school board make up at least this way they could have some say in who their student board member is. Additionally, if this election had low turnout or even less interest by the students that would give some indication of their interest level.

I know the student board members are present at each meeting, but sometimes leave before the end. I don't think they have a vote on the issues, but I do think the board members pay attention to the issues they bring up.


2 people like this
Posted by Influencing young minds
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2019 at 12:06 pm

@Resident,
That's a nice suggestion, but I think today's students understand that being a school board representative is really just something for their own resumes. It does not confer any power to the population of 16 and 17 year olds or give them agency to address their concerns.

In my posts, I pointed out that unfortunately getting the vote in school board elections will not confer the kind of power they want, either.

What they need is the ability to create the power of referendum and initiative, so that if the school board makes a decision the majority of students (or families, or the community) feel is against their best interests, that they have some leverage to change it. Getting the ability to vote in school district elections will not give them that. What they need is for the school board to adopt policies allowing the community to overturn one of their decisions if a given due process is satisfied, such as exists at the city and state level for referenda and initiatives. It shouldn't be easy, but such a policy change could allow students to participate. THAT would give them real power at the table, and would mean if they cared about an issue, they could be reasonably certain that their efforts will yield fruit if they work hard.

We heard Mr. Dharap argue for the power of students, but I have yet to hear him comment on his own ability to both propose something that would actually give students this kind of power and persuade his fellow board members to do so, too. I have yet to hear him back up his (in my experience) completely unsupported claim that he takes reports of retaliation seriously (seriously meaning he would help those retaliated against, not cause further damage by the usual CYA).

The fact is that getting the vote in board elections will confer very little power. Getting an equivalent power to initiative and referendum -- getting the ability to overturn an individual decision of the board if a lot of people sign a petition under very specific rules, for example -- getting that kind of power will not take legislative action, it will just take the local board deciding to create a policy allowing it. The board could decide to give 16 and 17 year olds the right to sign such petitions, thus giving them far more power than they have now, but not giving them so much power that they could push anyone around.

If I were a student who wanted power to change things, THAT is what I would be organizing for.


2 people like this
Posted by Influencing young minds
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2019 at 12:24 pm

It has been almost TWO WEEKS since Shounak Dharap last said anything and I have yet to hear him respond to any of my concerns above, including my call for him to state publicly what he will do for the many victims of retaliation in this district, or to back up his supposed commitment to student power (which he couched using loaded language like that they are "oppressed") by creating board policies NOW that grant the students that power.

It is a very discouraging par for the course for board members and people in the district to just go silent in the face of anything they don't like or calls for them to do the right thing.


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