General Education

Not Happy With Your School’s Policy? 5 Strategies to Win

Not Happy With Your School’s Policy? 5 Strategies to Win
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Molly Pennington, PhD profile
Molly Pennington, PhD April 8, 2014

Advocating for yourself as a student is one of the best skills you can build. Here’s how to change your school’s policy without losing.

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When freshman Daniel found out that his high school didn't have a tennis team, he was disappointed. Tennis is his favorite sport, and he wanted to play during his high school career. He asked his principal to create a team, but he learned that there were complicated requirements and costs for establishing a new sport. The simple answer was "no."

Eventually, Daniel succeeded in changing the policy, but it took time, advocacy, and a lot of initiative.

You can also enact change at your school. Policies are not set in stone, although it may feel that way. Each school or district has its own process for setting policy — and for changing it.

Making big administrative changes seems daunting, but change is possible. You just need to take action.

# 1. Be Your Own Advocate

If you're in high school, you're probably just beginning to develop advocacy skills. You may be used to your parents handling difficult issues for you. But now is the time to learn to speak up for yourself about the rights and options that are important to you.

# 2. Get Familiar With The Policy You Want to Change

It's important to learn about the policy you want to change. Your school has a handbook that outlines regulations. Ask yourself: Why was that rule set in place? How would you rewrite it or amend it?

# 3. Gather Support

Don't be shy about talking to other students or your teachers about your ideas. There are many different ways to advocate. It may be useful to start a petition or form a student group. You will gain confidence when you discuss the issue with your friends and people in your community.

# 4. Follow the Procedure

In most cases, you will have to present a proposal for change — either at a school staff meeting or to the school board. Talk to the secretary or a district administrator to get scheduled into the agenda. You will have plenty of time to prepare your proposal, ideally with input from your supporters.

# 5. Don't Give Up

Be persistent. Administrative changes take time. If your policy change isn't established after the first meeting, don't drop it. Simply ask to be put on the next agenda, and consider revising or amending your proposal. There is always a solution, but it might involve some give and take.

Daniel eventually had to compromise. He had organized students, a teacher, and community sponsors in support of a tennis team. He also made flyers, put together a fundraiser, and did research before he presented his proposal to the school board.

Daniel did not get a tennis team. Instead, he got an official school tennis club. He got to play his favorite sport, but he also gained skills in advocating for a policy change that was important to him.

When you take action, you can be just as successful.


Fletcher, A. (n.d.). 65 ways students can change schools. Retrieved from Soundout

Rabinowitz, P. (n.d.). Implementing promising community interventions. Retrieved from Community Tool Box

Reminders for reformers. (n.d.). Retrieved from Center for School Change

Ross, B. (n.d.). Outrageous school policies: what you can do. Retrieved from Education

Self-advocacy: tips for parents, students and teachers. (n.d.). Retrieved from Human Development Institute


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