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.”