Dan Gilmore / Oct. 21, 2015

Principal Deemed School Election Not Diverse Enough

Lena Van Haren discovered a problem with democracy.

Lena Van Haren, principal of Everett Middle School, discovered a problem with democracy. The school where 56% of the students are Hispanic had recently wrapped up its school elections and the top four positions were filled by white students, a demographic comprising just 18% of the school. This was a problem that could not stand for the principal. In an email she sent to the school’s parents, Van Haren wrote, “This is complex, but as a parent and a principal, I truly believe it behooves us to be thoughtful about our next steps here so that we can have a diverse student council that is truly representative of all voices at Everett.” Van Haren delayed the results of the election in order to think of how to make the student government more diverse, perhaps by adding more positions. What could go wrong? Everyone wins! The first problem was that Van Haren tampered with the elections, because that’s what an administrator is supposed to do when one sees inequality, apparently. Fact is, elections can result in representatives that aren’t composites of their constituents. Following her thinking, then we shouldn’t have presidential elections and instead parse the census data for the most representative person to be president. We’d probably find some middle-class business owner with enough brains not to run in the first place. The Washington Post’s Eugene Volokh wrote, “Well, the children’s voices were heard. They just seemed to be less obsessed with race than some administrators are.” Student elections teach students the basics of civics and self-government. Unfortunately, those students learned firsthand what happens when “We The People” produce “incorrect” results.

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