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CAIR Calls for Voting Rights Protection for Student Member of a Maryland County’s Board of Education After Vote to Re-Open Schools Leads to Backlash

(BALTIMORE, MD, 12/20/20) – The Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on the Howard County Public School System’s (HCPSS) Board of Education to make every effort to protect the voting rights of its student member of the board (SMOB) after parents of students in that school system filed a lawsuit last week to block them.

The two parents filed a lawsuit against the HCPSS Board of Education after learning the student member cast the deciding vote against ending virtual learning and re-opening schools before mid-April 2021 when in-person classes are scheduled to resume.

SEE: Howard County parents file lawsuit challenging student school board member’s voting rights

“Taking legal action to silence students’ voices simply because they disagree with your position is shameful and unconscionable,” said CAIR’s Director in Maryland Zainab Chaudry. “Student members of the board have been elected by and have represented thousands of students in the school system on key issues for more than a decade. While CAIR understands that virtual learning has posed significant challenges for families and the educational system, no one is more impacted by these changes than our students who are directly affected by every decision the school board makes. Their concerns must especially be centered and counted regardless of whether they align with our own.”

“The Howard County board of education consists of seven adult members elected by adult voters and one student member elected by the students,” said HCPSS student and CAIR volunteer Shahd Alhadari. “The SMOB has the importance of representing the students of Howard county. The idea of trying to delegitimize the SMOB is very concerning because in doing so you are stripping away the voices of the students that make up this county. The SMOB’s vote must be defended as it speaks for the students.”

“The legitimacy of the SMOBs vote should never be called into question,” said CAIR volunteer Farah Helal, who graduated from HCPSS in May. “No other board of education member understands what it is like to be a student or is voted into office completely by people who are actually affected by the school system. In addition, you can register to vote at the age of 16. Our current SMOB attends the most overcrowded high school in the county; he understands student mannerisms and requests by constantly consulting their needs. This position is very competitive, and the student selected as SMOB is not your typical high schooler. Everyone wants to return to normal, but this is not the time.”

The student member of the board is a junior or senior year high school student elected by their peers to serve a one-year term with limited voting rights. Eight school districts in Maryland have student members of the board who have some voting rights.

SEE CAIR’s “An Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices”

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.    

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.    


CONTACT: CAIR Office in Maryland Director Zainab Chaudry,

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