West Bend Students Participate in Democracy

By Noah Becker, Current Staff

Eight teenagers came to the West Bend School District office ready to make a difference in their community.

These students from the West Bend High Schools planned to speak at the Oct. 10 school board meeting located inside the central district building. The reason? The board intended to discuss a proposal that would ban political imagery and objects such as LGBTQ+ pride flags and Black Lives Matter items from district classrooms, and the students felt compelled to speak against the ban becoming official policy.

Among the student speakers were Sa’maia Evans, Zachary Koenigs and Fiona Shaw.

Evans, a West senior, says she felt an obligation to speak up because of widespread disinformation.

“I see a lot of falsities and rhetoric that aren’t necessarily true in the community,” Evans said.

Koenigs, a West senior, says that he wanted to make an impact in the school environment and everything that he sees going on.

Shaw, an East senior, said that banning this imagery can be harmful to students, especially LGBTQ+ students.

“(Students are) constantly subject to homophobic and transphobic language in school,” Shaw said. “Symbols of pride make students feel welcome, safe, and wanted. Removing these symbols and flags creates an unsupportive environment, which has been proven by organizations such as NAMI to be extremely detrimental to the mental health of queer youth.”

The proposal is still under consideration by the board. The next meeting of the school board is Nov. 14.

“That’s the most important thing: your voice matters.”

Fiona Shaw, East senior

Mark Drake, an Advanced Placement Government and Politics teacher at West High School, believes that it is important for students to be aware of local and national politics. 

“Civic-minded students who are peacefully demonstrating their constitutional rights is one of the greatest forms of participatory democracy we have in America,” Drake said.

Evans says that younger students who want to make a difference shouldn’t let their age dissuade them. She implores them to speak their truth if they see something unjust or cruel happening.

Shaw agrees, saying that younger students should speak about issues that mean a lot to them. She added that voting isn’t the only way to influence politics, and for many young people, the best way to make change is to get involved in local government.

“There’s a lot going on in the community, and your voice matters,” Shaw said. “I think that’s the most important thing: your voice matters. The school board wants to hear from students. After all, we’re the ones who are directly affected by their policies. Don’t be intimidated. It’s just a three-minute speech, but it can hold a lot of power.”


Filed under School News and Features

2 responses to “West Bend Students Participate in Democracy

  1. Noah Doedens

    As a West graduate, I’m proud of all the students who are exercising their constitutional rights by speaking up and using their voice about issues close to them. The ignorance of the school board and administrators has been noted for years, and now more than ever, we need students raising and sharing their own voices and experiences on these issues. As Mr. Drake said, the participatory democracy we live in only works if people actually participate. It’s great to see our future leaders doing just that, standing up to efforts to restrict and subdue a student’s right to express themselves. Thanks for highlighting these issues with an awesome article, Noah!

  2. As a West graduate and former locally elected official, think a better way to handle woke politics / woke groomed students is to follow the telos of a school, namely education.

    The woke want their message published and want all counter-woke or anti-woke messaging banned because “it’s harmful.”So just putting up woke political stuff uncontrolled in school is obviously a non-starter.

    The best way is to have students (all students) maybe bring in their political slogans and material in a social studies class and talk about them with a non-woke teacher as moderator, or perhaps a woke and non-woke teacher.

    That’s the best way, keep it a learning experience!

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