(Illustration/Freepik)

The San Francisco Board of Education has begun allowing San Francisco Unified School District students to kick off public comments during regular board meetings.

Under the new policy, which went into effect Tuesday, the first 15 minutes of the public comment portion will be allotted for students, with each student getting up to two minutes to speak about any SFUSD-related matter that is not on the meeting’s agenda. After that, other members of the public will be allowed to comment.

“We understand the importance of ensuring people feel heard, and in our school district it starts with students. This is one of several ways to reach community members, district leadership and commissioners, but we want to have a dedicated time and space where youth feel welcomed,” school board President Gabriela Lopez said in a statement.

“This is truly transformational because it not only shows how you can be civically engaged but also how you can make a difference in your school district.”

Kathya Correa, student delegate

According to district officials, providing a dedicated slot for students to voice their opinions builds on other ways the board empowers youth. Separately, two students elected by their peers serve on the board as student delegates, providing perspectives on policies put forth by the board.

“It’s important to prioritize hearing from our students, not only in board meetings but any time they are giving feedback. Having this time is reassuring that you are being heard even if the commissioners aren’t able to respond to you,” Kathya Correa, a student delegate to the board, said. “Not many students recognize the potential and how important it is to share your voice. This is truly transformational because it not only shows how you can be civically engaged but also how you can make a difference in your school district.”

Because of COVID-19, all of the board’s meetings are conducted online. Meeting agendas and information about how to join meetings or provide public comment can be found on the school district’s website.