Give The Student Member of the Board voting rights

The SMOB plays a huge role that gives a student a lot of responsibility. We have to trust that if given voting privileges, the student will be educated on the topics and make wise decisions and vote on students’ behalf.


by Marissa DePalma, Editor-in-chief

Lucas Tessarollo’s SMOB candidate photo.  School was elected the new SMOB for the 2022-2023 term.

On January 6, Frederick County Public Schools opened  voting for Student Member of the Board (SMOB). There were five candidates: Bella Amell, Hannah Morin, Michael Olson, Lucas Tessarollo, and Brady Vlha. Lucas Tessarollo from Thomas Johnson High School. He will start his position as SMOB in June after Sam Stars’ term is over.

SMOB does not have formal voting rights, but I think they should.

How many students does SMOB represent?

FCPS has a combined 45,300 students in elementary, middle, and high school. That’s a lot of students to represent as one person, and that student is not allowed to vote during meetings. This results in a huge lack of input from the student body. Even though the members of the board are supposed to listen to what the SMOB has to say, how can we guarantee they will vote accordingly?

There are 6,243 employees and 45,300 students.

There are more students enrolled in FCPS than people who work for FCPS. So why have so little input and advocacy? 

Satisfying the students of FCPS should be a priority.


The SMOB candidates are leaders in their schools, and their applications are narrowed down to a few of the very strongest candidates.

“Many of the issues that the Board votes on–personnel or judicial matters, for example–aren’t always appropriate for a student to contribute to. As such, I think partial voting rights would be appropriate for the SMOB. Even just partial voting rights would transform the position though, requiring a much larger time commitment and even more critical thinking, so it would become even more crucial that the student body picks a good candidate,” Stars said.

Clearly a capable and mature student is elected.

Partial rights

Some may think that because the taxpayers elected the board members, and not the SMOB, that the student shouldn’t be able to vote, which is understandable in some circumstances.

Limiting the SMOB’s voting rights instead of taking them away completely can be a good compromise. I agree that the SMOB should not vote on matters relating to budgeting to respect taxpayer dollars because board members are elected in through the majority of the community.

At the end of the day, the taxpayers are not going to school. They are sending their children to school, so their children should be represented by a vote, even if parents don’t exactly agree with what students want. 

“I think the student members of the board should be able to cast a vote during board meetings. It’s crazy that they aren’t allowed to because so many students are relying on them to voice their opinions and have an effect on crucial decisions made,” senior Emma Watkins said.

Limiting the SMOB powers to vote on some issues seems reasonable. Just give the SMOB some voting power to matters that pertain to most students. 

On the FCPS site, it states the responsibilities of the board, “monitors implementation of the school system’s master plan and gives final approval to curriculum matters and materials, staff appointments, equipment purchases, land acquisitions, and school construction, renovations, and repairs.”

Staff appointments, equipment purchases, land acquisitions, and school construction should be only for Board Members to vote on, but for the rest of the matters, there’s not any particular reason why SMOB should not be able to vote.


The SMOB has a perspective that the other FCPS Board members lack because they are current students.

— SMOB candidate Hannah Morin

The SMOB is living among the students he or she is advocating for and seeing issues and changes first hand. 

Trusting that the SMOB will just merely influence the decisions of the board members using voice only is not as effective.

Hannah Morin, a SMOB candidate, said,  The SMOB should have full voting rights because the FCPS Board of Education has only one student who directly represents the 44,000 plus students in Frederick County, therefore this student member must have a vote to truly be an advocate for the students.”

Hannah Morin’s SMOB candidate photo.

Morin stated in her candidacy speech,” I want to continue the efforts of the board to de-stigmatize mental health and produce effective mental health resources for students of all ages.”

This is a really good example of what parents or maybe even staff would not know. Unless you are in their sho,es how would you know what students’ mental health needs are? Therefore voting on such a matter is crucial.

Other districts and legality

Montgomery County, Howard County, and Anne Arundel are the only three counties in Maryland to give student members of the board position full voting rights. 

According to the Montgomery County student leadership site,” The SMOB can vote on matters related to collective bargaining, capital, and operating budgets, and school closings, re-openings, and boundaries, but not on negative personnel actions.”

This is something FCPS should look into and make a possibility. If surrounding counties can allow this, so can we.

Why doesn’t Sam Stars have a spot at the discussion table?

Other SMOBs have been concerned about the lack of voting before. Lilian Reed, in an article published by The Baltimore Sun, states, ”Maryland’s student school board members are organizing. Expanding their voting rights is a priority.” 

In the article, Christian Thomas, Baltimore County school board’s student representative said, “Today I find myself sitting here as so many student board members before me have sat: powerless. I can do nothing, as usual, but use my voice.” 

The lawsuit argues that allowing a student to vote violates the state’s constitution because the student is almost always under 18 and can’t vote in elections or hold elected office.

The population of students ranges in ages from 4 – 21. If the majority of students are under the age of 18, not allowing voting because it’s unconstitutional is outdated. A student member of the board has to be a junior to be elected. 

“If the student member were to acquire voting rights, that would give the Board eight voting members instead of seven. So what would happen if a vote was 4-4? There’s no obvious answer. There are also disagreements about the legality of a voting student member, which can cause a county’s Board of Education lots of drama,” current SMOB Sam Stars said.

“Ultimately though, I would love to see the student member gain voting rights. It’s just important to acknowledge the complexity that the issue is shrouded in,” Stars said.

This poll has ended.

Do you think the Student Member Of The Board should be able to vote during Board meetings?


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