In a bold move by the district, four buses packed with high school students made their way down to the capitol to learn and discuss political processes and concerns on Monday, February 28. Students woke up at the crack of dawn (4’o’clock to be exact) and loaded up for the for hour bus trip.
Upon arriving, students seemed partly mystified in what was many of the students’ first time being the Texas capitol. Although there wasn’t much time for sight-seeing, as students were immediately directed to the St. David’s Episcopal Church in order to meet with judges who were currently reviewing bills that would directly affect students. Due to traffic, we arrived slightly late while Mina Injarez was in the midst of explaining her current reviewing of an anti-cyberbullying bill that is currently cycling through the legislature. From what we heard, Bill HB no. 305 seeks to crack down on cyberbullying by allowing police departments state-wide to more thoroughly investigate claims of cyberbullying. This bill boasts that it will equalize the playing field against all forms of cyberbullying, even when the aggressor may attend a different school than the victim or may be home schooled.
One of the key points of bill seems to revolve around making parents more liable in cases where they are aware that an incident is taking place. An especially interesting point to make considering most of the society blames the bully more than anything, now the parents may also face consequences.
“I definitely think [the parents] should be more involved. I feel like [parents] aren’t up to date on the latest technologies; especially things like Snapchat.” said Principal Kevin Samples.
Ways to counter cyberbullying have been subject to review over the past 10 years or so as the internet has become more prevalent in society.
“Just blocking someone doesn’t solve the problem,” said Minjarez in response to a students question about what more advice could you give students about cyberbullying. “We want to stop the problem, not just ignore it.”
The next major bill that was brought before the students was HB no. 676, which seeks to raise the legal age of prosecution as an adult to 18, a raise from the current age which is 17.
“What difference does one year make in the justice system?” asked one student.
Alexander Hammond, Chief of Staff to Carol Alvarado, said, “A lot of thought goes into setting age limits. Your brain is still growing at 17, so how can you be tried as an adult while your still developing?”
Hammond was presenting two bills, the second one being HB no. 1018, seeks to set the legal limit to consume powdered alcohol to 21 years old, like all other forms of alcohol.
This bill seems pretty “no-brainer” to me and much of the other students, so there wasn’t much questioning regarding it’s passage. Although this was a good opportunity to inform students of this recently developed drug. Prior to this conference, I personally had no idea powdered alcohol existed.
The last part of this conference consisted of a panel of former students who currently occupied positions in Austin coming and explaining the best avenues to take to find success in government processes. Most of them spoke on internships and how social media plays a huge role in keeping in contact with constituents.
We departed the church with a minor taste of how government actually worked, and more was to come later. In the meantime, it was time to head down to the capitol building and meet on the front steps where a PTA rally was being led by the PTA president Lisa Holbrook.
Many of her remarks regarded what the PTA seeks to achieve this year, and recognizing the issues currently faced with the coming proposal of the system, which would allow students and parents to select what school in their district they’d like to attend.
“It all comes down to funding” said Samples. “The voucher system would allow schools to get more money per student than we currently get at the public education level.”
Many of the lead adversaries to this bill spoke up at this rally, namely among them being Representative Donna Howard.
“We don’t want the private schools getting all the funding” exclaimed a passionate Howard. “Do not doubt what your efforts here can achieve.”
Howard also went on to appeal to the masses of students present at the rally by announcing the upcoming bill XJR21, which would allow 17 year olds to vote in the primaries to select representatives.
Spirits ran high among the adults, but the students seemed to feel oddly out of place amongst all the commotion.
“They’re proposing stuff that wouldn’t affect them. They’re too old.” said Andres Garza, senior.
This narrative seemingly was playing out in the minds of all the students as they wondered around in the crowds filled with cheers and snare drums.
Tony Cervantes, senior, was skeptical, especially in regards to people in Austin passing laws over bullying. “They don’t know exactly how to handle [bullying]. [The students] should overcome the obstacle and move on.”
After the rally, students toured the capitol building and saw the hall where representatives convene in order to vote on bills just minutes before a session was about to take place.
“It’s so cool here!” exclaimed one student as they gazed up at the star on the roof of the main hall in the capitol.
Indeed, this was an excellent event for students to peer into the looking glass of government, but oddly enough, many felt as though they had no real voice while they were out there, only further reinforcing the notion that students really have no say in what happens to them.
The one opportunity students were given the opportunity to talk to a real representative, Cindy Burkett, seemed to be stripped away all to quickly, as students only got to ask about 3 questions, and seemingly got more answers from the MHS staff than the actual government official.
“Take part in your community. Allow yourself to be more involved in your community.” said Burkett
I’m sure students would have loved to been more active in their community and legislation, if only they were given a true opportunity to do so.
Prior to the event, many students were asked to research important topics regarding education to ask informed and meaningful questions in a meeting representatives that never happened.