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Updates, op-eds & press releases from the Kentucky Student Voice Team

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August 17, 2021

Student Testimony in Support of KBE Mask Mandate

The Kentucky Student Voice Team strongly supports the statewide mask mandate for schools and the Kentucky Board of Education’s regulation. While we were hopeful to return to school this year without masks, rising COVID-19 rates and the spread of the delta variant have made doing so clearly unsafe. Despite what some have said about the negative impacts of wearing a mask in schools, public health experts tell us that masks are the least invasive way to protect students and educators and ensure a return to the type of education experience we know and miss.

August 16, 2021

Students in Support of Statewide Mask Mandate to Testify at Legislative Hearing

On Tuesday morning, Kentucky high school students will deliver public testimony before a legislative committee reviews the Kentucky Board of Education’s statewide mask mandate for public schools. They will be speaking before the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee hearing which begins at 10 am ET.

August 11, 2021

Students Support Statewide Mask Mandate

The Kentucky Student Voice Team strongly supports the statewide mask mandate for schools issued by Governor Beshear Tuesday evening. While we were hopeful to return to school without masks, rising COVID-19 rates and the spread of the Delta Variant have made doing so unsafe. Despite what some have said about the negative effects of wearing a mask in school, public health experts tell us that masks are the least invasive way to protect students and ensure a return to the type of education experience we know and miss.

June 23, 2021

Kentucky Students Praise Student Free Speech Supreme Court Ruling

In an 8 to 1 opinion Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court issued their decision in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. that a Pennsylvania school district had violated the First Amendment by punishing a student for a vulgar social-media message sent away from school grounds. Brandi Levy, the plaintiff in the case, was suspended from her school’s cheerleading squad because of a Snapchat message she had posted while off-campus.

May 20, 2021

How Supreme Court decision to stifle student voices could impact activism for generations

By Arivumani Srivastava and Norah Laughter

For the past half-century, students’ free speech off-campus has been protected by the Supreme Court’s decision in Tinker v. Des Moines, in which a group of high school students fought their suspension for wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War. As a result, students have had some liberty to express their opinions off-campus without the threat of punishment inside the classroom.

April 1, 2021

Student Organizations File Amicus Brief in Critical Supreme Court Student Free Speech Case

Student Voice, Kentucky Student Voice Team, Houston Independent School District Student Congress & March For Our Lives file amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court in landmark student free speech case Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.

Student Voice, Kentucky Student Voice Team, Houston Independent School District Student Congress (HISD StuCon) and March For Our Lives, four grassroots student-led organizations working to elevate student voice at the national, state and local levels, have filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the United States in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. to defend student free speech outside of school and on social media.

March 30, 2021

Statement on the General Assembly Passing HB 178

The Kentucky Student Voice Team is pleased to see the preservation of the non-voting student and teacher seats on the Kentucky Board of Education with the final passage of House Bill 178. We extend our gratitude to the bipartisan group of legislators who were able to protect these positions.

March 30, 2021

Statement on the General Assembly Overriding the Veto of HB 563

The Kentucky Student Voice Team is disappointed that the General Assembly overrode Governor Beshear’s veto of House Bill 563 this afternoon.

March 17, 2021

Save Our Seats: Statement on HB 178

The Kentucky Student Voice Team is heartened to see the Senate pass a modified HB 178 to keep the student and teacher nonvoting positions on the Kentucky Board of Education. A bipartisan group of legislators were able to agree to a compromise bill in conference committee that protects the seats but changes them to be appointed by the Board.

March 11, 2021

Save Our Seats Petition

Students and teachers from across the state strongly oppose attempts by the General Assembly to remove the teacher and student non-voting members from the Kentucky Board of Education. These positions ensure that the system’s primary stakeholders have a direct say in state-level education policy and help ensure that we can improve schools for all students.

January 25, 2021

Announcing the Kentucky Student Voice Team

Today, after eight years of fruitful partnership, the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team becomes the fully independent Kentucky Student Voice Team. Our mission is the same—to position Kentucky students as education policy, advocacy and research partners to ensure our schools are as equitable, engaging, and excellent as they can be.

January 17, 2021

Kentucky Student Voice Team joins call for Biden-Harris administration to include students

After record student turnout in the 2020 election, the Kentucky Student Voice Team joins a national coalition of youth-led organizations are calling on President Biden to engage with young people across the nation and include them in the new administration.

October 9, 2020

On the Kentucky School Board and in Their Communities, Youth are Making Their Voices Heard

By Emanuelle Sippy & Sanaa Kahloon

With Louisville student Solyana Mesfin’s recent appointment by Gov. Andy Beshear as a non-voting member of the Kentucky Board of Education, Kentucky joins the ranks of 20 other states who have young people playing a similar role. As a junior at Eastern High School and daughter of Ethiopian immigrants who is active in several youth-driven, equity-oriented leadership groups, including ours, Solyana brings exceptional capacity and perspective to the job.

August 12, 2020

Kentucky Students Report Strong Mental Health Impact of Pandemic Disruption in Statewide Survey

Student Voice Team releases results of "Coping with COVID-19" student survey

Kentucky middle and high school students experienced significant behavioral and emotional changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the interruption in a traditional learning environment, according to the Student Voice Team.

July 21, 2020

ADVISORY: Students, School Staff Share Perspectives on Reopening K-12 Schools

As schools begin to release their reopening plans, the Education Justice Collective’s Move School Forward team, which includes the Student Voice Team, is hosting a Town Hall about organizing safe, equitable and justice-centered transitions back to school in the fall. Using a student-moderated “town hall'' format, those directly impacted by school reopenings — students, school staff and administration — will answer both pre-submitted and live questions from members of the media and the public. The event will close with specific calls to actions for viewers to advance increased federal funding for schools and participate in nationwide direct actions to demand teacher and student safety.

July 15, 2020

Students, History Experts Call For Anti-Racist Curricula in K-12 Schools

In solidarity with students across the country fighting for anti-racist curricula in their schools, the Education Justice Collective’s Move School Forward team, which includes the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team, hosted a Town Hall on Decolonizing K-12 Curriculum featuring history experts and student organizers from across the country. History experts explained the necessity of accessible, accurate history and civics education to democratic society and students told the stories about their experiences in school related to anti-racism, decolonizing curriculum and civic action.

July 9, 2020

Education Justice Collective Responds to the President’s Comments About Reopening Schools

When considering how to reopen schools this fall, no decisions can be made about students without students. Without considering the safety, personal and local concerns expressed by students, families and individual schools, districts and states, the Trump administration has suggested that they will use funding to pressure all schools to reopen in person this fall. Their demand ignores the unprecedented health and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic on students, is incredibly shortsighted considering looming cuts to school funding and is clearly motivated by self-interest to diminish the growing severity of the coronavirus pandemic before the November 2020 presidential election.

July 6, 2020

Student Voice Team Named a Civic Spring Project Grantee

Statewide education non-profit will provide active and effective summer civic learning experiences for local youth focusing on the impact of COVID-19

LEXINGTON — The Student Voice Team has been selected as one of six Civic Spring Project grantees. The Student Voice Team will use its grant to work creatively over the summer to engage young people building civic knowledge while strengthening their community’s civic infrastructure as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

July 1, 2020

Thousands of Students Launch Move School Forward: 30 Days of Action Campaign

The Education Justice Collective demands education justice, anti-racist curricula, police-free schools and more.

Thousands of students from across the country are coming together in the month of July to launch the Move School Forward: 30 Days of Action campaign and to demand education justice for all students, including action around anti-racist curricula and police-free schools.

June 10, 2020

Students Launch Move School Forward Campaign Calling for Student Voice, Equitable Learning Opportunities in School Reopenings

The Education Justice Collective launches the Move School Forward campaign for equitable education

The Education Justice Collective, a group of youth-driven organizations including Student Voice, Our Turn, the Student Voice Team and others, has convened students across the country to launch the Move School Forward campaign, a set of ten guiding principles regarding what students believe schools must prioritize in the fall amidst COVID-19. Students’ priorities include elevating student voice, supporting marginalized students, closing the digital divide, adopting anti-racist policies, funding schools equitably and more.

May 11, 2020

Kentucky Students Create Survey Investigating How Peers are Coping with COVID-19

LEXINGTON — A group of local high school students want to know how their peers are navigating school at home during the COVID-19 crisis, so they’ve designed a survey to find out. The Student Voice Team, a statewide group of students who work as research, policy, and advocacy partners in Kentucky’s education improvement efforts, started creating the survey when schools closed for the pandemic in March. Over the past several weeks, the team has developed the survey in consultation with research experts from Kentucky and around the country.

February 11, 2020

School Safety Requires a More Comprehensive Approach Than Armed Guards

By Emanuelle Sippy

Last year’s Senate Bill 1, now known as the School Safety and Resiliency Act, was the result of an inter-generational effort to strengthen school safety. A member of the Student Voice Team served on the School Safety Working Group and invited other students to share testimony and research with the group as they conceived the legislation.

February 1, 2020

Students as Education Partners

By Emanuelle Sippy & Rachel Belin

From the Little Rock Nine and the Children’s Crusaders during the civil rights movement to today’s Dreamers and organizers of the March for Our Lives, young people have long been on the front lines of pushing for systemic change. The Student Voice Team, consisting of 100 self-selected students from across Kentucky, works in that tradition to improve schools and society.

January 9, 2019

Pathway 2 Tomorrow Names $100,000 Innovation Award Recipients

Pathway 2 Tomorrow: Local Visions for America’s Future announces its $100,000 Innovation Award winners. The Innovation Award Committee selected two proposals addressing the authentic engagement of students as partners in education policymaking. The Student Voice Team and the Iowa Department of Education will share the award capturing students for impact in their communities and across the country.

December 18, 2018

Survey: Students Accept Reality of New School-Safety Measures

By Sadie Bograd, Lily Gardner, Sanaa Kahloon, Emanuelle Sippy, Krasimir Staykov, & Rachel Belin

The Dec. 13 story, “Some Fayette students speak out against metal detectors,” featured student feedback that the Student Voice Team gathered about Paul Laurence Dunbar High School’s new security measures. But it was not the story we were trying to tell.

December 11, 2018

Student Voice Team School Safety Testimony

We are here today because we wanted to share back some Kentucky student perspectives about school safety, and we wanted to make the case for why, when it comes to ensuring it, we students can and must be partners in finding and implementing solutions.

August 7, 2018

School Safety Tax Moved Swiftly Because the Danger Is Real, Say Lexington Students

By Zoe Jenkins, Sanaa Kahloon & Santiago O’Neil

A wave of gun threats and confiscations jolted students in Lexington this past spring. In the wake of one such incident at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, one student captured a prevailing sentiment, telling us, “I seriously do not feel safe in school anymore.”

July 12, 2018

Beyond Guns: Student Testimony on School Safety, Climate, and Culture

On Tuesday, June 26, members of the Student Voice Team addressed Education Secretary Betsy Devos’ panel of policy makers who made a stop in Lexington as part a national listening tour to identify solutions to issues around school safety. Propelled by what we learned conducting school climate audits and what we heard from the youth and adults who attended our statewide teach-in and rally around school safety in March, we secured a speaking slot during the hour reserved for public comment. The following is a transcript of our message.

April 26, 2018

These High-Poverty Kentucky Schools Figured Out How to Help Kids Succeed

By Patricia Kannapel & Rachel Belin

In 2005, the Prichard Committee sponsored a study of a small number of high-poverty Kentucky public schools that were successfully educating their students at high levels. Their success was unexpected because schools with many poor students have historically struggled to help them succeed.

March 20, 2018

Hundreds of Kentucky Students Gather on Capitol Steps to Share Stories of School Violence

The Student Voice Team drew hundreds of youth activists and adults concerned about school safety to a Teach-In and rally at the Kentucky Capitol Tuesday. The events were led by high school students from across the state to highlight the issue of school violence and support participants to explore solutions.

March 14, 2018

Student Voice Team to Host March For Our Lives KY Teach-In & Rally

The Student Voice Team is hosting a March For Our Lives KY Teach-In & Rally at the Capitol in Frankfort on March 20th. The Student Voice Team will lead a Teach-In to support participants to have informed opinions about school safety and climate and activation strategies in the afternoon. After the Teach-In, SVT will host a rally on the steps of the Capitol to share stories from schools across the state and call on policymakers to take action to reduce violence in Kentucky schools.

March 14, 2018

Getting Beyond Guns

By Keaton Conner, Nasim Mohammadzadeh & Annie Stauffer

For many Kentucky high school students growing up with the memories of Heath, Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, recent events have made it feel as though our schools are under siege.

February 22, 2018

Student Voice Team Announces Student-Led Response to School Shootings

On March 20th, the Student Voice Team will host a March for Our Lives KY Student Teach-In at the Kentucky State Capitol to highlight the issue of student safety and school climate in the context of recent school shootings and threats in Kentucky and across the country. The day of action is part of the larger March for Our Lives rallies organized by the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.

February 21, 2018

Students Across America Stand With Those in Parkland, FL

A Collective Response from the Student Voice Network

As our grade numbers went from single to double digits, we watched in horror as the number of shootings in American schools did the same. Today’s college freshmen were babies when twelve students and one teacher were shot and killed at Columbine High School by their classmates. Current high school juniors were in kindergarten when twenty-six students and six professors were killed at Virginia Tech by another student. This year’s graduating twelfth graders were in seventh grade when twenty first-graders and six teachers were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary school by an armed intruder.

December 22, 2017

College Readiness is More Than an ACT Score

By Allison Tu

The story about Fayette County students who scored a perfect 36 on the ACT rightly affirms local students with academic ambitions and extracurricular chops. But it also raises some important questions about the test itself.

October 17, 2017

Kentucky Teens Release Book on College Readiness

"Ready or Not" Promotes Student Voice in Education Policymaking

FRANKFORT — In a room full of policy experts and advocates convened by the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a group of students from the Student Voice Team today released Ready or Not, the culmination of over a year of student-led research and interviews. The 300-plus-page book features the stories of high school seniors and recent graduates from across Kentucky about their plans to continue their education—or not—after high school.

October 1, 2017

Student Voice in Kentucky

By Hiatt Allen & Zachariah Sippy

It started small and simple. On a cool fall evening in 2012, a group of high school students meet in Central Kentucky, brought together by a paper flyer and a passion for education, met with a woman with a pitch from a local education organization in a coffee shop.

August 27, 2017

Student Voice Team Celebrates Five Years of Impact on School Improvement

Students share accomplishments as partners in education advocacy and announce upcoming release of book about challenges of college readiness

LEXINGTON — Students from middle school, high school, and college gathered with more than 150 educators, policymakers, and education advocates at the University of Kentucky’s Boone Center last night to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Student Voice Team.

August 10, 2017

How Student Voice Strengthens Our Advocacy

By Rachel Belin

Fifty published op-eds; three policy reports; 65 presentations to educators, policymakers, students, and advocates; and one soon-to-be published book—advocates in Kentucky have been busy, all between bells. The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence Student Voice Team is celebrating five years of listening and advocacy this August.

June 20, 2017

Let’s Stop the Apathy in Kentucky and Beyond: The connection between student and civic engagement

By Zachariah Sippy

We know democracy is in jeopardy when millions of people dismiss the political process as rigged and not worth their attention, choosing to stay home rather than vote. For example, in the 2015 Kentucky gubernatorial election, when the voter turnout was a dismal 30.6 percent. More than two-thirds of Kentuckians who could have voted stayed at home. Where did we go wrong?

June 8, 2017

The Case for a Student-Driven Approach to Improving School Climate

By Zachariah Sippy

I'd had enough. The swastika scrawled on a bathroom stall in my high school was the last straw. After experiencing a year and a half of anti-Semitism in my school, I took to Facebook to post a testimonial.

April 24, 2017

Include Students in Search for JCPS Leader

By Pearl Morttey & Zachariah Sippy

The departure of Donna Hargens offers an opportunity to consider the role of Jefferson County Public Schools's superintendent in relation to the system's stakeholders.

September 15, 2016

Student Voice Team receives support for college-ready work

LEXINGTON — A $40,000 grant from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board will support work by the Student Voice Team to define what it really means for high school seniors to be college ready.

August 9, 2016

Kentucky Youth Release "Students As Partners" Report

EMINENCE, KY — On Tuesday, a group of young people released Students as Partners, a report detailing the widespread lack of student inclusion on Kentucky school governance bodies and making the case for change.

May 15, 2016

Schools can do More to Learn the Language of Support

By Sam Swayze

Imagine going to school in Kentucky without knowing English. You can’t understand the lessons; you’re foreign to the culture; and worst of all, your parents are no better off.

May 15, 2016

Education System Accountability Begins with Students

By Lydia Burns & Jamie Smith

Congressional reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) last fall sparked the interest of policy experts and educators hoping to see a fresh wave of education improvement. They were excited by the prospect of overhauling the current problematic school accountability systems and envisioning ways to replace them with a collection of well-researched and thoughtfully-designed systems for states to use as models.

May 15, 2016

The Real Special Need: Being Heard

By Jack Bradley with Rachel Bradley

I live in parallel universes—the universe of special education and the universe of not-so-special education. I have a foot in each. Every day I am split in two.

May 15, 2016

Student Perspectives Essential to Understanding Gaps

By Susie Smith & Andrew Brennen

As biracial and African-American Kentucky students, the color of our skin has always been a relevant part of our education careers. From a young age, we were peppered with questions about our hair and requests to touch it. We were grilled on why we felt so comfortable speaking in full sentences, known as speaking “white.” We were called “Oreo,” the implication being that we were black only on the outside. Success is not something people that look like us are supposed to achieve. Many of our peers have had experiences like ours.

May 15, 2016

STEM: The Roots of the Gender Gap

By Madison Ortega

If you are a girl who is interested in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM), or if you are plainly a person that cares about the fate of Kentucky’s innovational future, there is something you must know: women have less than a 25% representation in these critical and high-paying fields.

May 15, 2016

A Win for Students This Legislative Session

By Amanda Wahlstedt

Jay Shrader, a senior at Shelby County High School, worries about how he will pay for college, calling his acceptance to Eastern Kentucky University “bittersweet.” He knows, “the first semester at EKU is about $3500... and the last time I was ever around a thousand dollars was never.”