Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #29

Ballotpedia's Hall Pass

Welcome to Hall Pass. This newsletter keeps you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance. Each week, we bring you a roundup of the latest on school board elections, along with sharp commentary and research from across the political spectrum on the issues confronting school boards in the country’s more than 13,000 school districts. We’ll also bring you the latest on school board elections and recall efforts, including candidate filing deadlines and election results.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues:  The debate over student discipline and restorative justice
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • State boards of education set education content standards in 36 states
  • Maryland high court rules student school board members can vote
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey
  • School board candidates per seat up for election

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On the issues: The debate over student discipline and restorative justice

In this section, we curate reporting, analysis, and commentary on the issues school board members deliberate when they set out to offer the best education possible in their district.

One topic of debate is how schools should approach student discipline. Proponents of what is called restorative justice say discussions, mediation, and other non-adversarial methods of conflict resolution can address the root of school community problems. They argue traditional methods of punishment such as suspension can make behavioral problems worse and disadvantage minority students. Proponents of traditional discipline methods are necessary to maintain order in schools and that restorative justice practices do not sufficiently restrict bad behavior. 

Joe Herring writes that restorative justice and the movement away from traditional discipline have caused increased violence and criminality in schools. Herring says restorative justice advocates deemphasize and redefine infractions to support the idea that restorative practices lead to better outcomes. He also says restorative justice supporters often encourage school crime victims not to file police reports, creating an environment of unaccountability.

Linda Stamato and Sandy Jaffee write that traditional methods of discipline, like suspensions, are inequitable, fail to address root causes of bad behavior, and can cause problems to escalate. Stamato and Jaffee write that restorative justice practices help students learn negotiation and problem-solving and teach them how to resolve disputes positively and creatively. 

From the penitentiary to the public school: Restorative Justice warps discipline | Joe Herring, The Lion

“Restorative justice programs have been adopted across the country by school systems struggling to maintain order following the expulsion of School Resource Officers (SRO) in the wake of the George Floyd riots and related protests. When students returned to in-person schooling after the COVID lockdowns, many found hallways unmonitored with the SRO gone. The spike in violence and other criminality has been stunning. … Wokeism is indeed evident in many education decisions, specifically regarding the intersections of race, violence, criminality and poor achievement. Circumstances that indicate the failure of restorative justice are glossed over by the redefining of offenses – deemphasizing many of the unlawful behaviors by encouraging victims to refrain from filing police reports, opting instead to engage in restorative practices with their tormentors, facilitated by a restorative coordinator. … Consequences are muted to provide a favorable look, but the underlying behaviors remain unaffected, at the expense of the safety of students and society both.”

Suspending students isn’t the answer. Restorative justice programs in schools are a better solution. | Opinion | Linda Stamato and Sandy Jaffee, NJ.com

“Suspensions raise a number of issues, not least how to deal with disruptive behavior, equitably and effectively, to understand its causes, and to identify and address conditions that may be contributing factors. … There is hope for change on the horizon, though, as more schools experiment with variations on the theme of “restorative justice.” This concept refers to a range of dispute resolution programs that include student-run courts, group sessions, restorative circles (in which all those involved in a dispute participate in discussions about the harm done and devise steps to deter future harm), and, mediation. Restorative justice attempts to reach beyond punitive measures to solve problems before they escalate and threaten the fabric of the school community. … Educational programs that expose students to negotiation and conflict-resolution processes, and teach them problem-solving skills, help to reduce reliance on formal and adversarial processes to deal with disputes and disruptive behavior; they place more emphasis on positive, creative ways to handle conflict.”

School board update: filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications

Ballotpedia has historically covered school board elections in about 500 of the country’s largest districts. We’re gradually expanding the number we cover with our eye on the more than 13,000 school districts with elected school boards.

Election results from the past week


We covered school board general elections in Boise on Sept. 6. Five seats were up for election, including special elections for three at-large seats. 

State boards of education set education content standards in 36 states

State content standards are education learning and achievement goals state education officials either require or recommend local schools meet in K-12 instruction. Content standards are not curriculum. Rather, education officials develop content standards in order to facilitate curriculum development. 

Who sets state content standards for K-12 public education?

  • In 36 states, the state board of education sets education content standards. In the majority of states, the governor appoints state board of education members
  • In 10 states, the state department of education sets education content standards. 
  • In Florida, Massachusetts and Minnesota, the education commissioner sets education content standards. 
  • In Montana, the superintendent of public instruction sets education content standards. 

State statutes or regulations may require or recommend the use of K-12 education content standards in public instruction.

  • In 39 states, the entity that develops standards issues requirements
  • In 11 states, the entity setting standards issues recommendations
  • Of the 36 state boards of education that set content standards, nine issue recommendations and 27 issue requirements. 
  • Of the 10 state education departments that set content standards, nine issue requirements and one issues recommendations. 
  • Content standards are issued as requirements in Florida, Massachusetts and Minnesota, where the education commissioner sets the standards. 
  • In Montana, the superintendent of public instruction issues recommendations. 

To read more about who sets state K-12 education content standards in your state, click here

Maryland high court rules student school board members can vote

On Aug. 25, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled a state law allowing the student board member on the Howard County Board of Education to vote does not violate the Maryland Constitution.

The Maryland Court of Appeals is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. One judge on the court was appointed by a Democratic governor and six judges were appointed by a Republican governor.

The 2007 law, Education § 3-701, gives student board members on the Howard County Board the right to vote on some matters. The law says a student member must be a Howard County resident and a junior or senior in a public high school. The law also says that only students in grades six through 11 can vote for a student member candidate. 

In 2020, the Howard County Board of Education held several votes to resume in-person instruction, all of which failed. In each case, the vote was 4-4, with the student member voting against reopening schools. Two parents of students in the district, Traci Spiegel and Kimberly Ford, sued the Board, alleging Maryland Constitution does not permit people under 18 to vote or hold public office. 

Spiegel said, “the student member doesn’t have the ability to vote on budget or personnel, but for some reason had the ability to vote on going back to school virtual or nonvirtual, and I found that disconcerting.”   

The Howard County Circuit Court ruled against the parents in March 2021. The Court of Appeals later granted the parents an appeal. 

In its ruling, the Court of Appeals distinguished between elected offices created by the state Constitution and elected offices created by the General Assembly—offices that include local school boards. 

The Court said: “The General Assembly has broad discretion to control and modify the composition of local boards of education, which includes the creation and selection process of student board members as it sees fit…the General Assembly had they Constitutional authority to create a student member position for the Howard County Board, establish a process for the election of such members by students in the Howard County public school system, and grant such student member voting rights.”

The eight-member Howard County Board of Education is one of eight school boards in the state that allow student members to vote alongside the elected adult members.

According to Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk, “there is no database detailing how many of the nation’s thousands of districts grant student board members voting rights. But the bits and pieces of available information suggest it’s rare. Most of the time, student board members serve in an advisory-only capacity.” Education Week found in 2019 found that only student board members in California and Maryland had voting rights. 

Extracurricular: education news from around the web

This section contains links to recent education-related articles from around the internet. If you know of a story we should be reading, reply to this email to share it with us! 

Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

Everyone deserves to know their candidates. However, we know it can be hard for voters to find information about their candidates, especially for local offices such as school boards. That’s why we created Candidate Connection—a survey designed to help candidates tell voters about their campaigns, their issues, and so much more. 

In the 2020 election cycle, 4,745 candidates completed the survey. 

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here to take the survey.

The survey contains over 30 questions, and you can choose the ones you feel will best represent your views to voters. If you complete the survey, a box with your answers will display on your Ballotpedia profile. Your responses will also appear in our mobile app, My Vote Ballotpedia.

And if you’re not running for school board, but there is an election in your community this year, share the link with the candidates and urge them to take the survey!

School board candidates per seat up for election

Since 2018, we’ve tracked the ratio of school board candidates to seats up for election within our coverage scope. Greater awareness of issues or conflicts around school board governance can result in more candidates running for each office. Click here to see historical data on this subject.  

This year, 2.46 candidates are running for each seat in the 1,321 school board races we are covering in districts where the filing deadline has passed. The 2.46 candidates per seat is 24% more than in 2020.