The School District 69 (Qualicum) board of trustees has voted to reduce the voting age of those who can elect school board trustees.
A motion by the board’s youngest member, trustee Jacob Gair, during the first SD69 board meeting of the year garnered unanimous support from the other members of the board Tuesday, Aug. 29.
Gair’s motion is that SD69 seek to convince the Vancouver Island School Trustees Association, and then the BC School Trustees Association, to lobby the B.C. government to amend the School Act.
The motion calls for the allowed minimum voting age to be reduced from 18 to 16.
“I view public education not only as a way to prepare students for work… but also to make them fully active citizens,” Gair said while introducing his motion.
He explained how, currently, students can engage in the school system only to the amount that their teacher, school administration or staff wish to allow. Rather than leaving that discretionary power in the hands of adults, Gair said, allowing more students to vote would require that trustees be accountable to them as constituents, since their future on the board could be changed by the impact their decisions have on students.
It would also be an opportunity to promote civic engagement, showing students what effect voting can have on their own lives.
Asked for examples by trustee Barry Kurland how being able to vote would change how a 16-year-old acts in school, Gair said more students would have a clear recourse when, for example, an important teacher is moved out of their school, or an elective course is dropped.
“I support this unequivocally,” said trustee Elaine Young. She added that she feels the current provincial government would be amenable to such a change, and perhaps even more broad voting reform.
“I think there is a will, right now, to do this,” said Young.
The motion received unanimous support.
“I’m very happy to see it had so much support from the board,” said Gair, adding that he didn’t expect anything less from his colleagues, who he said are proponents of student engagement.
Being elected to SD69’s board as a 20-year-old in 2014, Gair said he’s had this motion in mind since his campaign. He said now was the right time to bring it out, with one year to go before the next trustee elections. Gair said he would not be running again, but said he hoped this motion could keep youth engagement going beyond this term.