FCSS-FESC Calls for Student Trustees in British Columbia


Ellen Sy
President: British Columbia
Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des Élèves du Secondaire au Canada
+1 (289) 643-6262


FCSS-FESC Calls for Student Trustees in British Columbia

The Need for Legitimate Student Representation on British Columbia’s District Boards of Education

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA, OCTOBER 12, 2016 - The Federation of Canadian Secondary Students- Fédération des Élèves du Secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC) is a nationwide initiative tirelessly advocating for the welfare, benefit, and rights of students. Our branches reach out from sea to shining sea, spanning Ontario, Quebec, and most recently, British Columbia.

In British Columbia, it would appear to many that the needs of youth are already well addressed. The push for gender-neutral washrooms, for instance, was one that culminated in justicefor our LGBTQ+ pupils. The prospective closures of low-income schools (such as Britannia High, a secondary institution with a substantial Aboriginal population) have been successfully beaten down by a number of advocacy groups. And most importantly, the youth in British Columbia are represented on Ministry of Education boards by their very own Student Trustees.

However, all is not as equitable as it may seem. In principle, the idea of Student Trustees seems like a genuinely good opportunity for students. However, the reality is that they are limited to witness the process of policy implementation, without any real say as to what the policies should be.

Sworn in on October 15, 2013, then-16-year-old Nick Milum made history as the province’s first ever Vancouver School Board student trustee. Three years ago, it was made clear that “the student trustee is not able to vote or introduce motions”, a quirk seen by many as something that would change with time. However, three years forward into the present, it became standard procedure for every departing student trustee to inform their successors of the candid truth: your role means that you “could suggest but not move motions as student trustee and couldn’t ever vote”.

It is immensely disappointing that even today, secondary school students are not treated as legitimate stakeholders in their own education.
— Cindy Lee, Chief Communications Officer: FCSS-FESC

At the FCSS-FESC, we firmly believe that students should have the capacity to set out the courses of their own futures: a belief that is negatively impacted through the lack of voting power. A notable example of one of the adverse effects of this empty position is a recent decision made by the Vancouver School Board on behalf of the BC Ministry of Education: halfway through the 2015-2016 school year, the Board of Trustees voted on a 6-3 decision to scrap the current system in which the taking of AP courses will grant both credits for Grade 12 as well as the course’s first-year equivalency. With no consideration given to the students when making this choice, many pupils who had taken AP English had found themselves unable to graduate with their standard Dogwood diplomas, as they no longer had a means to obtain their grad prerequisite AP English credits. It is circumstances like these that demonstrate the impact of a no-vote structure. Perhaps if students had been given a voice in the matter, the situation could have been prevented. 

Ultimately, the FCSS-FESC questions: if the sole representative of a province’s worth of adolescents is not even granted the chance to speak for whom they are meant to stand for, are students truly being represented? Simply standing  by as we are granted “power” in the form of puppet attorney roles hinders the ability of our Boards of Education to make representative decisions about our learning, and therefore necessitates a change.

The Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des Élèves du Secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC) aims to deliver the student voice to education stakeholders, when it is often forgotten in daily discourse. We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that is led completely by youth. Together, we are the largest student alliance of its kind in Canada. Our programmes supplement public education with networking events, leadership opportunities, peer mentorship, and conferences. Our initiatives are designed to guide Canadian youth of today and ensure their successful tomorrow, whilst working to improve education today.

For any sources used in this release, contact the Office for Communications and Public Information at contact@fcss-fesc.ca.