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Judge rules student can continue voting on Howard County Board of Education

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Posted at 9:48 AM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 10:00:48-04

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — A judge has ruled that a student member sitting on the Howard County Board of Education can continue to have a meaningful vote.

Parents sued the Board of Education back in December after they say the student member caused a 4 to 4 stalemate, preventing kids from being allowed to return to class for in-person instruction.

They argued each member of the board had to be elected and at least 18-years-old.

In the end, the court disagreed saying the Maryland General Assembly wrote the law in a way that allows a student member to be selected in ways other than an election.

"There is no provision in the Maryland Constitution that requires that board of education members be elected nor does the General Assembly lack the power to create non-elective positions." wrote Howard County Circuit Judge, Richard S. Bernhardt.

The judge also dismissed the age argument, saying it only applies to elected officials.

"After careful investigation, this Court could not find, nor could the Plaintiffs cite, either in the Maryland Constitution or within the Education Article, a requirement that non- elected members must be over the age of eighteen," Bernhardt stated in his written opinion.

RELATED: Hearing considers challenge to Howard County Board of Education student member's voting rights

The judge made clear that he wasn't ruling on whether it was prudent to have students vote, only if it's legal.

"It is not for this Court to determine whether it is prudent to have students with voting power on boards of education. Rather, this Court merely must determine whether it is legal," wrote Bernhardt.

The Howard County Board is made up of seven elected members and one student, who is voted in by their peers in grades 6-11 to one-year terms.

In Maryland, the number of members serving on the Board of Education is based on the number of enrolled students in a particular county.

Howard is one of multiple counties in Maryland to have a student sit on their Board of Education, including Baltimore, Harford, Montgomery, and Prince George's.

The student is not allowed to vote on budgetary or personnel disciplinary matters.

Some public schools in the county reopened weeks ago. Depending upon what grade they're in, a lot of students won't return until sometime between the end of this month and mid-April.