School Board Student Members
Summary: In response to student advocacy about the need to uplift and increase BIPOC student voice, student member positions were created.
Seattle School Board Adds Two New Student Members
Aayush Muthuswamy and Lola van der Neut, both seniors from Lincoln and West Seattle high schools, respectively, will join Luna Crone-Barón as the 2023-24 student school board members. This is Luna’s second term serving on the board. The Nathan Hale senior was part of the inaugural class of student members.
Student member positions were created in response to student advocacy led by the NAACP Youth Council about the need to uplift and increase BIPOC student voices within Seattle Public Schools. The Seattle School Board recognizes the organizational structure of the district can create a wall between decision makers and the students the district serves. Board members also believe students possess valuable insight and should have a voice in the education received from the district and the decisions made by the board.
Meet the Student Board Members
Luna Crone-Barón is a senior at Nathan Hale High School. Luna is a first-generation Colombian American, trans, queer, neurodivergent student who is a lover of storytelling in all forms. She initially joined the School Board out of her love for SPS students and the community. She wants to continue in the role because she feels there is an immediate and important need for students in leadership positions in this district.
The issues that matter most to Luna are school board transparency and student well-being.
“In my opinion, saying ‘student safety’ isn’t sufficient. Safety in schools must only be the steady foundation of growing thriving, loving school communities,” she said. “This includes allocating resources to mental health, not cutting classes and teachers vital to school communities, and teaching decolonized curriculum.”
Luna also believes all schools should have anti-racist environments, adequate sexual violence prevention and response in schools, and timely LGBTQ+ affirmative sexual health education.
Ultimately, Luna wants to make the student member position more influential. She wants students to be in the know about decisions being made within the district that will affect them.
Aayush Muthuswamy is a senior at Lincoln High School. Aayush is the student body president at Lincoln High School. He joined the board because he recognizes how easy it is for students to be forgotten in decision-making processes.
“I’ve seen time and time again adults around me and my peers make decisions on our behalf – decisions that directly impact every part of our day-to-day lives – without consulting us, and these decisions negatively impact our ability to learn and our right to feel safe.”
Aayush is deeply passionate about school safety. He knows it is a multifaceted issue, but at the board level, he will advocate for more mental health therapists to help students address problems before they escalate.
Aayush believes the school board should be accessible and inviting to all, but the work has to be intentional. He said the board can’t wait for a crisis to address an issue.
“We should actively participate in the community and gain a thorough understanding of the issues affecting the people we serve,” he said.
During his time on the board, Aayush wants to take steps towards a future where positions like this one are not unique or an anomaly – where students are present at all levels of decision-making and influencing policy. He is grateful to have this opportunity to serve the SPS community.
Lola van der Neut is a senior at West Seattle High School. As a neurodivergent female activist, Lola has faced challenges in making her voice heard and being taken seriously in the school system. However, these roadblocks have only fueled her passion for justice and giving a platform to other students whose voices are typically dismissed.
“I have a strong passion for community involvement, and when I saw there was an opportunity to join the Seattle School Board as a student member, I felt I could serve as the voice of my fellow students … especially those with a learning disability.”
Lola hopes to establish a way for students to feel heard, giving them the ability to provide specific feedback about their experience at school. She also wants to advocate for a drug education program that is relevant and resonates with teens.
Lola believes students today lack motivation and are uninspired to do well in school.
“Even one assembly a year that hosts a motivational speaker could change lives,” she said. “I would advocate for a program … covering topics like productivity, communication, relationships, health, diet, career, college, financial literacy, resume training, and coping mechanisms.”