To complement their study of government, fifth grade classes can experience the legislative process first-hand through the Board's Student Legislature program. In this two-hour program, held on the legislative floor in the County's Michaelian Office Building, a legislative aide first gives students an overview of how the legislature works. Particular attention is given to how the committee system works in moving and developing ideas and suggestions into laws that affect the lives of the almost one million residents of Westchester County.
The students then go to work as legislators. Sitting in the legislators' seats in the Chambers, they debate and vote on a mock issue that legislative staff has prepared for their discussion. Topics have included issues that have actually gone before the Board such as whether to ban smoking in public places to other issues that can grab a student's attention such as whether school should be year-round!
In the course of the discussion in the Chambers, students learn about legislative procedures. Particular attention is paid to the duties of the Board's Chair and Clerk as well as the Committee Chairs in safeguarding the integrity of the legislative process. These leaders must be very knowledgeable about the rules of procedure set out in the County Board's own rule book (Chapter 960 of the County Charter, the Rules of the County Board of Legislators), as well as the widely-used Robert's Rules of Order. No deviation from the Rules is ever allowed. This strict adherence to the process ensures that each Board meeting moves along in an orderly and efficient way and that laws are passed in the same way, from year-to-year and issue-to-issue. Making sure the process is fair and consistent is a very important part of the democratic process.
Student Legislatures are scheduled for Wednesday through Friday mornings. Anyone interested in scheduling a Student Legislature should contact their District Legislator for participation.
The Board encourages fifth grade teachers and students to take advantage of what many have found to be a unique and exciting hands-on learning experience.