Coverage of Venable’s Successful Representation of Coalition Opposing Attempt to Strip Maryland Board of Education Student Members of Voting Rights

2 min

Mitchell Y. Mirviss, Emily J. Wilson, and Elizabeth A. Sines represented a coalition of more than 125 past student members of Maryland boards of education challenging two Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) parents' attempt to strip the Howard County Board of Education's student member of their statutory voting rights on issues before the board. On August 24, 2022, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the Howard County Circuit Court's decision, affirming the voting rights of student members on local boards of education. The case was covered by the Baltimore Sun, Daily Record, and Washington Post, among other publications.

The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit after members of the board voted in December 2020 to continue virtual learning through mid-April 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. They argued that the student member's statutory right to vote as a full-fledged board member violates Maryland's constitution because they are selected by students in grades 6 through 11, who are not of sufficient age to vote for elected officials. A further problem, the plaintiffs alleged, is that student members are not adults when they take office, and the state constitution requires that all elected officials be 18 or older. Venable argued that the student member is an appointed member of the board, not an elected member subject to the age requirements for elections and elected officials in Maryland's constitution.

The high court's decision ensures students will continue to serve on the school boards whose decisions affect them "first and foremost," Ms. Wilson told the Daily Record. "It (the SMOB program) really works to safeguard the students' voice," she added.