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

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March 10, 2022

Nearly Half of Kentucky Students Say Schools Need to Do More to Address Racism

Today, in what they billed as a “Pop-Up Press Conference” in front of the Capitol Annex, high school researchers from the Kentucky Student Voice Team released their Race to Learn Study, distilling the results from the 10,725 Kentucky middle and high school students from 114 counties who took their Race, Ethnicity, and School Climate Student Survey in December.

January 12, 2022

KSVT Rallies Youth to Oppose Bills that would Limit Free Discussion in Classrooms

Today, the Kentucky Student Voice Team joined students and educators from across the Commonwealth to rally against two bills which, if passed, would undermine teaching and learning truthful history and accounts of current events.

January 12, 2022

Maturity Means Learning to Embrace Discomfort

What Kentucky students tell us about race & ethnicity in our schools

By Pragya Upreti

Joining me in the Rotunda today are fellow Kentucky students who traveled to Frankfort from all across the Commonwealth. We are here today, missing school, because we believe that something very important is at stake in this legislative session, and that we bring a unique perspective to the thinking around it. There has been a lot of conversation lately about what teachers should be able to teach when it comes to race and ethnicity in our schools, but what do students already know?

January 12, 2022

How Can We Heal?

The Case for a More Honest High School History Curriculum

By TaMyra Johnson

Our history curriculum needs to include everyone’s stories—not just the ones we are comfortable with. Some may argue that if we teach students about America’s disgraceful past that we will remain in it; but I argue instead that it will liberate us. Right now, history is not being taught honestly and leaves students like me, having to fill in the gaps ourselves.

January 12, 2022

Is My History Less Important?

The impact of curriculum underrepresentation in our schools

By Tyler Terrell

As a Black and Korean-American boy in Kentucky, I feel very unrepresented in my education, one centered on the perspective of the straight white man. Thinking back to elementary school, I remember hating learning about Black history. Most of the history gave me nightmares. Why would someone enslave people who look like me? Why would all people around the world hurt people who look like me?

January 6, 2022

Statement on Senate Bill 1

Two months ago, our team lauded efforts by the Kentucky Board of Education to diversify representation on School-Based Decision Making Councils (SBDMs) by allowing non-voting student members. Today, we are speaking up to strongly oppose Senate Bill 1 which would roll back the essence of those improvements and undermine the role of SBDMs more broadly.

November 30, 2021

Statement on KDE Guidelines for Non-Voting Student Members on SBDMs

The Kentucky Student Voice Team is excited to see the continued progression of student voice in our state resulting from the newly-simplified process of diversifying representation on School-Based Decision Making Councils (SBDM). Schools are now able to include non-voting student members by a simple vote rather than requiring state sanction.

November 12, 2021

KSVT and the Institute for Citizens & Scholars Release New Report, “The Co-Creation Generation”

The Kentucky Student Voice Team and the Institute for Citizens & Scholars recently released a report and set of tools titled, “The Co-Creation Generation: The Story of the Kentucky Student Voice Team & Guide to Intergenerational Change.” The one-of-a-kind report is meant to help young people and adults build teams that center youth voice to build coalitions and improve communities.

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 16, 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 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

KSVT, Student Voice, 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.

The Kentucky Student Voice Team, Student Voice, 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

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

We Rally Here Today in Solidarity

By Sahar Mohammadzadeh

We rally here today in solidarity. With remembrance. With respect for the courageous who shared their narratives, and with appreciation for those who came from all corners of the state to spark the integral conversations that need to be happening inside of the walls of the building behind me, not just on the steps. Our stories, our narratives hold tremendous power to ignite change. Here on the Capitol Steps, we have the state’s attention, and now is the time to capitalize on that.

March 20, 2018

The Public's Shock That We Care is What Holds Us Back

By Annie Stauffer

In January, there was a shooting at Marshall County High School. Since then, we’ve had two gun threats at my school in Owensboro, and I know friends across the state have had similar experiences. What happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ignited a flame within students across the country. And what Kentucky needs to know about school climate and safety is that that flame—the one that will drive us to take a stand and fight for schools that feel safe—is here to stay.

March 20, 2018

The Ability of One Inanimate Object to Corrupt

By Santiago O'Neil & Will Byerman

"School Climate” refers to the overall “feel” of a school, an average consensus of the mood among students and administrators. A multitude of variables go into creating school climate, including the workload of students and staff, the social dynamics between students as peers, and our relationships with the aforementioned adults. These factors look different at every school, but consistently influence the belonging students feel or the lack thereof.

March 20, 2018

Green County Does Not Feel Like Home

By Ashton Bishop

Being raised in a small town and rural community, I grew up around guns. Guns are everywhere in Green County. and it’s not out of the ordinary to be outside and hear someone fire a rifle or to see a hunter to leave their gun in their vehicle during school.

March 20, 2018

Do Not Let This Momentum be so Easily Dismissed

By Bryan Padilla

Kentucky is my home. That’s why I’m here today. That’s why I must say—with a heavy heart—that the bottom line is that many of us, as students, parents, and educators, feel that our schools are not safe. Right now, we are seeing yet another wave of momentum behind the voices who remind us over and over again that the gaps in our schools’ safety are unacceptable. With that, I urge you: do not let this momentum be so easily dismissed.

March 20, 2018

No One Was Listening

By Austin Bowman, Don Trowell, Faith Henning, & Khamari Brooks

Freshman year, there was a gunman in our school. He was a student, and he shot someone, but it was the wrong person, over an iPad and money. He darted out of the school, and we were on lockdown for three hours. We were all in different places. I was in the band room closet which is supposed to be made for band instruments but fit 50 plus kids in the class. We were like little sardines in there.

March 20, 2018

Without Action Prayers Are Meaningless

By Hiatt Allen

The only thing people seem to say anymore after a tragedy is that their thoughts and prayers are with those affected. And I get that, to some extent. The tragedy is fresh, it is emotional and it’s hard to know what to say to someone who has gone through such a horrific event especially, when it’s not happening in your community. And thoughts and prayers are comfortable, easy, and politically correct.

March 20, 2018

To All Who Have Questioned the Power of Youth

By Sanaa Kahloon

Our legislators are aware of this movement, but I’m not sure they understand that this is about more than just our physical safety. This is about our fear, our frustration, our anger, and above all else, our hunger for change. We can all agree that innocent children should not be killed at school or anywhere else. Just in 2016, 33,636 American lives were cut short due to gun violence, counting suicides and accidental discharges, both equally as tragic.

March 20, 2018

Why was My 12 Year Old Self in Possession of Something so Powerful?

By Will Powers

I came here today to rally alongside passionate and intelligent students advocating for students’ safety in schools. But I also came here to provide a unique and often unheard perspective on the issue of gun control. I grew up and live in a small town in southern Kentucky, Somerset. I love my town, from our school traditions to our beautiful lake; But underneath all of the beauty, traditions, and mom & pop shops, there is a prevalent regressive culture and deeply rooted in this culture are guns.

March 20, 2018

So Many of Us Walk Through the Halls Every Day Fearful

By Allison Tu

Oftentimes, when another shooting hits the presses, it’s framed around claims about the shooter’s mental health. For many people, there is an almost automatic association between mental illness and these horrific episodes of violence. But this is a misconception, one of the most dangerous and pervasive ones in the world of mental health.

March 20, 2018

Mental Illness is Just an Illness

By Jack Bradley

Like everyone else, I was devastated when I learned about yet another high school shooting. Probably unlike most everyone else, I was also became really upset when I learned that the shooter was believed to be autistic and to have ADHD. Why? Because I am autistic, and I have ADHD.

March 20, 2018

Gun Violence is Not Just a Black Issue

By Shana Berryman

Gun Violence is not just a Black issue. The Marshall shooting, that was not just a black issue. The Parkland shooting, that was not just a black issue. People treat shootings differently based on the race of the shooter.

March 20, 2018

Our Generation is Just Packed with Violence

By Te'Osha Raglin

Adults—even our own parents—just don’t seem to understand how bad it’s gotten. When the student shot himself in the hand in our school, I was like, this can happen at any high school. But for my mom, it was the last straw. After having a gun pulled on me while riding the bus home from school, sophomore year.