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Brevard School Board Chair wants to target teens not yet registered to vote

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The Brevard School Board convened for a workshop yesterday morning to review policies in the 5000s section of the District Policy Manual, which pertains to students. Throughout the year, the School Board has been holding additional workshops to review and update the District Policy Manual comprehensively. They are more than halfway through reviewing the manual, which extends to policies in the 9000s.

Brevard Public Schools collaborates with NEOLA (North East Ohio Learning Associates) to aid in drafting and updating policies. NEOLA, an educational consulting firm with over four decades of experience, specializes in creating policy language aligned with state statutes and specific state concerns. Originating from Ohio, NEOLA operates in six states nationwide, as per their website.

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In yesterday morning’s discussion, the School Board delved into policies already integrated into the District Policy Manual and those suggested by NEOLA yet to be adopted by BPS. One such policy is NEOLA Policy 5724: High School Voter Registration Program. District 5 Representative, Kayte Campbell, mentioned that BPS already undertakes the actions specified in this policy. However, District 4 Representative and School Board Chairperson, Matt Susin, presented a contrasting perspective.

Chairperson Matt Susin revealed that two years prior, he acquired voter registration lists from the Supervisor of Elections and student data from Brevard Public Schools. This was to enable district staff to cross-reference names and identify students not registered to vote. He added that these lists were subsequently handed to the respective schools. District 3 Representative Jennifer Jenkins voiced her support for student civic engagement but expressed concerns about distinguishing between registered and unregistered students, given their age. She was promptly interrupted by Matt Susin, who pointed out the legal voting age of 18. However, he seemed to overlook that teens can pre-register to vote from the age of 16 once they’ve obtained a license.

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Kayte Campbell concurred with Jennifer Jenkins, stating that BPS shouldn’t access voter registration data. Nonetheless, both agreed that BPS could bolster its efforts to encourage student registration. District 1 Representative and Vice-Chair Megan Wright also chimed in, supporting the idea of using voter data in governmental classes or by Student Government bodies.

When Matt Susin realized his proposal might not receive majority support, he stated his intention to independently carry out his plan and dispatch cards. Jennifer Jenkins then pointed out that the Supervisor of Elections doesn’t issue reminders to unregistered adult voters. She warned Chairperson Susin that his approach could be seen as intrusive, especially when the primary policy objective is education.

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According to the Brevard County Supervisor of Elections website, a Voter Education Outreach Program is in place. The Supervisor of Elections, Tim Bobanic, along with his team, offers speaking engagements and organizes voter drives. This initiative also presents volunteer opportunities for students. To educate BPS students about voting’s significance and to register eligible individuals, BPS should leverage the Supervisor of Elections’ programs instead of expending resources on comparative lists or attempting to reinvent existing processes.

As the first day of school approaches, parents were informed that a special permission form would be required if their child were to use a name different from the legal name on their birth certificate. This covers nicknames like Alexander being referred to as Alex or Isabella as Bella. Does Brevard Public Schools plan to draft an opt-out letter prohibiting the district from reaching out to unregistered student voters?

The debate remains ongoing, with the board majority voting in favor of integrating NEOLA Policy 5724. Chairperson Matt Susin expressed his plans to consult Superintendent Dr. Mark Rendell about organizing voter registration drives.

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