Students vote on an amendment during the 2019 Kentwood Constitution Convention. Photo by Kayse Angel

Students vote on an amendment during the 2019 Kentwood Constitution Convention. Photo by Kayse Angel

Students take charge of their school government

Biennial ASB event teaches high schoolers about democracy

Voting on important issues isn’t just up to the adults.

Students at Kentwood High School got a chance to practice democracy at the biennial Kentwood Constitution Convention on Tuesday, May 28.

This convention, according to Associated Student Board (ASB) advisor and athletic director Jo Anne Daughtry, is an opportunity for students to have a say in how things are run at the school, within reason.

“We developed a constitution, every school is supposed to have a constitution,” Daughtry said. “It’s mostly a working document on how we operate as a student government for the most part. In that original document they said it should be reviewed every two years. So we have a constitutional convention in odd numbered years.”

Students can’t change school rules, but they can change logistical things within the school.

For example, students have made it so the constitution states students who sit in the first five rows at sporting events have to wear Kentwood gear. Or, in the past, students have also made it so if a student was already on homecoming court, they can’t be voted on it again until their senior year.

Daughtry said there is typically 100-150 students who attend the convention each year it occurs. These students are representatives from different classes, along with sports teams and clubs.

Weeks before the convention, Daughtry said the constitution is sent out to students so they can take a look at it to see what they might want to change, or take off the constitution.

Then, the representatives get permission from their parents and teachers to go to the convention, which typically takes all day, according to Kentwood ASB Cabinet member Justin Bose.

At the convention, Daughtry said students are split up into groups where they discuss more in depth what they want to see changed or removed.

Once the groups have talked it out, they submit amendments to the ASB. Once the ASB has looked over the amendments, they will vote on what they think should be changed or not.

“We have students that are really passionate about the constitution and wanting to make changes,” Bose said. “(ASB) Cabinet votes on it and we all get a say in ‘Yeah, we think this would be really great to change,’ just for like modernizing things.”

Bose described the convention like a court system with the way things work at it.

He said he thinks students getting to attend this convention is important.

“Because if you look at our educational system, there’s only one semester of civics that teenagers are required to take and I feel like that should be changed to even more because you look at a lot of laws now a days and I would say being able to use your voice even now in the littlest of things. Start using your voice and see what it’s actually like to vote on things really helps promote civic engagement,” Bose said.

Daughtry said it’s great to see students participate in the event because it helps them understand how decisions are made and they things are the way they are.

Being at Kentwood for 20 years has given Daughtry the background that is needed to help students understand why something is done a particular way, she explained.

She also said how a student government operates, should be up to the students, not the adults.

While the principal will look over the constitution once everything has been voted on to make sure nothing is a safety hazard, it’s important for students to take part in how their government is run, she said.

“I do believe that it is important for students to participate in (the convention). By the time you’re a young adult, by the time you’re 18, you can start to interact with the government,” Bose said. “Whether that’s city government or a county, or the state, it really prepares you to stand up for what you believe in. Now a days, a lot of people do not get involved and I think that’s the crisis we’re facing because there’s a lot of things that can be fixed. They can make a difference and I think that’s what this is promoting in some way.”

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