Voter registration to be integrated into social studies curriculum

Though Election Day is months away, Riverhead school officials are working to integrate lessons about voter registration into high school social studies classroom curriculum by spring.

Assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Christine Tona said lesson plans, mandated by New York State, are being developed at the high school level. It’s likely that voter registration forms will be sent home with students. If children choose to fill out the form with parental approval, she said, the school will submit the form to the Board of Elections.

Yolanda Thompson of Baiting Hollow said she understands voting can be part of the curriculum, but wants to ensure parents are informed of the procedure and said the school should not determine whether students want to vote. 

“Quite honestly, I view that as my responsibility, to speak with my children at home about their civic duty,” she said. “I don’t see that as a school district responsibility to push my child to make a decision like that.”

Riverhead resident Kathy Berezny asked the board for records of how many people are using the buildings to vote. She believes it’s not necessary to hire several poll clerks at each elementary school if voter turnout is low. 

“There are less and less parents and community members that are partaking in the voting,” she said. 

Mr. Meyer said the school board will reply to her question at the next board meeting.

East End Voter Coalition chairman Robert “Bubbie” Brown of Riverside said for nearly the last seven years, coalition volunteers have visited the high school twice a year to help students register to vote. Over the last two years, he said the group has registered around 170 kids. He asked if the coalition should stop visiting the school. 

Mr. Meyer said the group should continue visiting but if the district receives feedback from the state regarding the coalition’s actions, then they may need to stop coming to the school.