After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida students have not shied away from debating public policy.
And now, some are taking it a step further. In Citrus County, two high school students are running for the District 5 seat on the county's school board. One of his opponents, 18-year old Nick Lahera, is a senior at Lecanto High School. Adam York, also 18, is a junior at the Academy of Environmental Science, a public charter school in Crystal River.
York is involved in Boy’s State run bythe American Legion. Operated by students elected to various offices, the program's activities include working on legislative issues. York says this year, the group lobbied for expanding mental health services for students.
“This is so important,” he said. “Some people are afraid that mental health funding might steer something away from helping students that aren't that way. But if you think about it; everyone is going through something. We need to understand that and we need to put forth that extra penny, that extra dime to help students. It can make the biggest difference in the world.”
York also said that he is concerned with issues like bullying and social justice.
“I definitely am an advocate for social issues, especially on women's rights, LGBT rights and equality for different races,” he said. “A lot of people in schools are bullied because of these things and we choose to ignore it rather than acknowledge that it's an issue. That's one thing I want to do with the school board so we can lobby Tallahassee, so we can lobby United States congressmen. Things like social issues are so important to protecting our schools.
School safety is also among the issues top of mind after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. When asked how he felt about the recent debate over Florida’s new armed guardian program, York said all variables need to be considered before school districts make decisions.
“I’m glad that it’s an optional issue for counties because some counties might need a bit more of the protection,” he said. “I think that the School Resource Officers in our county do an amazing job and I feel like to say that we want to arm teachers is disrespectful to the amazing sheriff's office that we have in this county. But whether we should rely on giving teachers guns shouldn't be something that the schools fund and it should be a decision made by the teacher and the school.”
Like his opponent, York does not feel like his age should be a factor when voters consider who they will elect for school board later this year.
“I feel like our school board needs to see what goes down on a day to day basis and sometimes that can be hard for a retired teacher or a parent. But as a student, I can see those day to day operations. I can understand where the students come from and where the teachers come from. I hope that you'll be able to look at me as a candidate and not just an 18-year old."
York will face incumbent Linda Powers and retired teacher Tim Stuart, in the District 5 race school board race, along with fellow teen, 18-year old Nick Lahera, a senior at Lecanto High School. WUSF Public Media profiled Lahera on Monday.
Official qualifying for the Citrus County ballot is in June.