What is Student Council? - Definition, Purpose & Positions

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  • 0:00 Student Council Overview
  • 1:18 Student Council Fundamentals
  • 3:01 Who's In Charge
  • 4:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Maryalice Leister

Maryalice has taught secondary and college English and trained new online teachers, and has a master's degree in Online Teaching and Learning.

This lesson defines and discusses student council. We will see what a student council is, how it is formed, and why it is important for young people. After the lesson, take a quiz to see what you learned.

Student Council Overview

Student council is a group of students elected by peers to participate in designated areas of school government. Any student is generally welcome to attend the council meetings. Student councils exist at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, though generally student councils are more prevalent at the high school level. Involvement at the lower levels has proven to be beneficial in that when students reach the higher grades, they have already experienced how meetings run and decisions are made.

Generally, councils participate in the planning of school events such as prom and spirit rallies. They also assist administration with events for the local community such as blood drives or donation collections. They work with the district's school board, school administration, parent organizations, student body, and local community to decide on and approve projects and initiatives for the school, students, and community.

Student council members bring ideas, requests, and feedback to the meetings and a democratic process is used to give students a voice and make decisions in creating a year-long calendar. Students who participate in student councils, under the supervision of a teacher or administrator, learn about the democratic process, civic responsibility, leadership, problem solving, and teamwork.

Student Council Fundamentals

A student council is an organization that has existed both formally and informally for decades. The most official administrative overseer, National Association of Student Councils (NASC), was first structured in the early 1930s under the supervision of the National Association of Secondary School Principals and is still a respected forerunner in the movement. State organizations have sprung up as well as school district committees who choose to oversee multi-grade level groups in their own school buildings district-wide.

The needs of each school and district dictate which grade levels may be part of the council and how it is run. Student councils usually have a handbook that outlines each component of the council's responsibilities. For example, the handbook may explain how elections will work, which positions will be elected, and how often the council meets. The handbook should also outline the specific responsibilities of the council and the council's advisors (administrators or teachers). In short, the handbook is the manual for all aspects of the operation of the student council. The handbook should be reviewed yearly to ensure it reflects changes and current policies. Quality handbook samples are available on the Internet to assist a council with the formation and writing process.

A council constitution is recommended by the state and national groups. For membership in some groups, a constitution is required. Even if not connected to a formal group, the actual creation process of a constitutional structure is an excellent learning experience for students. This way, students clearly understand their roles in the council and what the council is designed to do.

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