News and Public Media for North Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Petition challenges Santa Fe HS policy that limits student government participation

Santa Fe High School on April 4, 2024.
(Lacey Rogers/WUFT News)
Santa Fe High School on April 4, 2024.

Some high-achieving Santa Fe High School students are barred from attending the high school’s student government class by the school administration -- but one student is working to change the rules.

“I wish that I didn’t have to choose,” said Reagan Saucier, the sophomore class president at the high school. Starting next year, she’ll be dual-enrolling at Santa Fe College, which means her time in student government at the high school will end. Her mother is helping her run a petition to change the rules.

“I believe all students should be given the same amount of chances no matter their academic choices,” Reagan said.

Santa Fe High School Principal Dr. Timothy Wright said the school runs one 35-seat leadership class a year. Students must apply to enroll in the class if they want to run for a position in student government.

Leadership teacher Olivia Roberts, who selects the students in the leadership class from among the applicants, did not respond to multiple requests for an interview with a WUFT reporter.

The leadership class plans school events, teacher appreciation week and creates senior night banners for the sports teams.

“We’re limited by space (in) how many students can enroll,” Wright said. “We have always kept that enrollment for students that are actually on our campus.”

Dual-enrollment students are still welcome to join clubs and athletic teams, he said

“We have always focused on those kids that are Santa Fe High School students all day long,” Wright said.

But students in dual enrollment are not always off campus. Some are full time and spend the whole school day at Santa Fe College, while some are part time and spend part of the day at the high school.

More than 60,000 students dual-enroll every year in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Education.

“Often students who are in student government are your best students at the school as a whole,” Reagan said. “So why would they deny us the ability to participate?”

There are 48 full-time dual enrollment students and 10-to-20 part-time dual enrollment students at Santa Fe High School this year, according to Wright.

He said the intention is not to make students feel like they can’t be involved, but that the policy comes down to the number of students the class can accommodate.

“We still have students on our campus that don’t get into the [leadership student] government class simply based off the number of kids,” he said.

Reagan’s mother, Sabrina Saucier, 46, created apetition and emailed Wright to protest the policy.

“We are students who have shown our commitment to education and leadership by taking on college-level classes while still in high school,” Saucier wrote in the petition. “We strive not only for our personal growth but also for the betterment of our peers and school community.”

Wright said he had not seen the petition when Saucier emailed him, but she told him that she was the one who created it.

“We have saved those spots for students who attend Santa Fe High School,” Wright wrote in a response to the petition. “In addition, many SGA events occur in the morning hours and throughout the school day,” he said.

Saucier said she disagrees with Wright’s sentiment because her daughter is still a student at the school.

“My daughter is still going to be attending Santa Fe [High School],” Saucier said. “[Wright] made it seem like she wouldn’t be there.”

Reagan said she feels defeated because she is not being given the option to represent her school while attending college classes, even if her schedule next year allows it.

The Alachua County Public Schoolspolicy manual does not impose any county-wide rules about participation in both dual enrollment and student government.

University of Florida political science major Santiago Alvarez, 21, said that participating in student government was one of the best things that happened to him.

“Student government is essentially what saved me throughout high school,” he said.

He didn’t know anyone when he moved from Virginia to Boca Raton Community High School, he said, but student government connected him with like-minded people who valued his involvement. Student government made him a better person every day, he said.

At UF, Alvarez held positions as the student senate Gator Party caucus leader, a member of the judiciary committee and Gator Party campaign administration chair. Without his experience in high school, he would not have been as successful at UF, he said.

“Student government in high school gave me purpose and was an incredible experience,” he said.

The Sauciers’ petition has 102 signatures one month after its launch, half of its goal.

Lacey is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.