New policy to promote voter registration at high schools

The Durham Board of Education will discuss a new policy that promotes student voter registration when the board meets Thursday, June 22.
The Durham Board of Education will discuss a new policy that promotes student voter registration when the board meets Thursday, June 22.

The Durham Public Schools Board of Education will consider a new policy Thursday that encourages high schools to register eligible students to vote.

The board will meet at 6:30 p.m., at the Fuller Administration Building, 511 Cleveland St., in downtown Durham.

Policy 3640/130-Student Voter Registration is an optional policy recommended by the N.C School Boards Association (NCSBA) and is offered to all of the state’s school districts as a way to promote student voter registration.

“The board is committed to securing the future of democracy by preparing young people to be educated, engaged voters,” the policy states. “Further, the board is committed to working in collaboration with the local board of elections to encourage students to register to vote as permitted by North Carolina law.”

Under the proposed policy, the superintendent would create a committee of high school social studies teachers and other appropriate school personnel to collaborate with the Durham County Board of Elections to facilitate and encourage voter registration at high schools.

The policy also reminds school of the state law requiring high schools to keep registration forms on hand and make them available to students or anyone else who is eligible to register to vote.

Durham Public Schools also adopted a resolution in 2015 that requires every school library to keep a supply of voter registration forms available for teachers, parents and students.

“It really puts into policy some of the practices that we already have in place,” said Kelvin Bullock, the school district’s executive director for equity affairs.

Bullock said DPS efforts to increase voter registration among high school students led to 1,100 students registering in the spring of 2016.

He said voter registration is incorporated into the curriculum for seniors enrolled in civics courses.

“It aligns perfectly with the curriculum,” Bullock said.

School board Vice Chairwoman Natalie Beyer was excited about the policy recommendation during a board work session last week and asked that the item be pulled from the board’s consent agenda for discussion at the board’s regular business meeting.

“It such a Durham thing, a Durham value,” Beyer said. “I knew so much work had gone into voter registration and into outreach, not only for our students but also our families and our teachers, to get folks engaged as voters.”

The ability to register high school students in North Carolina got a boost last year when the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the state’s controversial voter identification law.

The decision reinstated voter preregistration for 16-and 17-year-olds.

Voter preregistration is seen as effective way encourage civic participation among youth.

Superintendent Search

In other business, the school board is expected to receive the results from an online survey and three “kitchen table” conversations held to give residents a chance to weigh in on the search for a new superintendent to replace Bert L’Homme who has announced he will retire Aug. 4.

The school board hopes to have finalists for the position selected by July 26.

The timeline sets Oct. 4 as the date the new superintendent would be named and introduced to the community and Nov. 3 as the start date of the new superintendent’s employment.

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645