, one to Northlake police accountability group



AUG 25, 2020 AT 3:20 PM

Amanda Le was appointed as a student representative from East Leyden High School at the Leyden High School District 212 meeting on Aug. 13, 2020. (Cynthia Moreno / HANDOUT)

Two students from East and West Leyden high schools will soon be representing their peers and making student voices heard at local government boards.

Cassandra Diaz and Amanda Le were appointed earlier this month as student representatives to the Leyden High School District 212 Board of Education. Diaz was also recently invited to join the Northlake Police Accountability Project, an appointed group of members that meets annually to review police statistics, policies and civilian complaints.



The board of education has invited student representatives, one from each high school, to the board for at least the past four years, Board President Greg Ignoffo said.

“It brings the student voice right into the boardroom,” Ignoffo said.

Students have told East Leyden rep concerns about remote learning

Le, 17, the representative from East Leyden, said administrators let students know through social media that she’ll be their board representative. She’s already had a number of emails and texts from students, sharing their concerns about remote learning, the new school schedule and wanting input on hybrid learning options.

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“Whatever (students) want to tell me, I will try my very best to bring it up to the board,” Le said. “Although I don’t have a yes or no vote in the process, I do hope to carry their voices to the board so that their decision can be made.”


Le served on student council as secretary and is planning to apply for president this year, as well as president of her school’s National Honor Society chapter.

She said she’s interested in the way the board operates, and wants to make sure that students are heard.

“It’s important to have that voice so that all students can understand the decision and the process behind something the Board of Education chose,” Le said. “(Students) might not agree with it. It’s important not just to have an adult view, but sort of have the students’ view as well.”

Ignoffo said each of the students will give a report at the meetings and are encouraged to ask questions like the other board members. The students are invited to school board conventions and Ignoffo hopes to keep them as engaged as the elected board members.


Not only do the two representatives give the board the students’ perspective, Ignoffo sees their role as a way to engage the students as a whole.

“With all of the social media that these student board members are on, and the rest of the student body, it’s a great way for them to connect back with the kids,” Ignoffo said. “… When they hear it from our student board members, it can be a little bit more meaningful for them,” Ignoffo said.

West Leyden rep wants student voices heard

Cassandra Diaz, 17, from West Leyden, said she’s looking forward to representing students. She plans to share feedback on online learning, both the positive aspects and the challenges.

Cassandra Diaz was appointed as a student representative from West Leyden High School at the Leyden High School District 212 meeting on Aug. 13, 2020. (Cynthia Moreno / HANDOUT)

Diaz complimented the administration on opening up the building to students who don’t have a quiet place to learn remotely, and plans to look out for students who might have trouble accessing the resources.

“I like, not giving my opinion, but being able to be the voice of other people,” Diaz said. “Just so that if their voice isn’t being heard, I have the spot to put their voice out there.”

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Like Le, Diaz is a leader at her school. She’s the president of the National Honor Society chapter, and participates in a service club, class advisory, a club that supports undocumented students called “Dreamers and Allies,” and “Best Buddies,” which pairs general education students with students receiving special education services.

Northlake police group invites transparency

Diaz was also invited to the Northlake police department accountability group. Though the group had its annual meeting in June, Chief Norm Nissen said he’s planning another meeting to introduce Diaz.

Minneapolis police killed George Floyd in May , spurring protests against police brutality throughout the United States , and renewed conversations about accountability in many cities.

Though Nissen said the group talked about inviting a student in 2019, after these events, Nissen said he took action on the need for a younger perspective.

“Certainly when we came into June of 2020, just by listening and paying attention to what was happening out there, you could tell at most of these protests there were a lot of young people involved,” Nissen said. “It kind of gave us an opportunity to kind of put it in gear and go out and search (for a candidate).”


Diaz said she plans to observe the meetings at first to get acquainted with the group, then share her opinion on how things are going.

“I don’t like when there’s injustices, so when the George Floyd thing happened, I was really bothered by it,” Diaz said. “If I had the opportunity to do something in the police department about it, then I would do it.”

Nissen formed the group after protests in 2015 after police in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. He said he saw “a need to tell the police version” about use of force.

Young people, Nissen said, may have a negative view of police because of the national attention on police killings. He said news media don’t always portray police departments fairly, or may pass up opportunities to tell positive stories about law enforcement.

Diaz’s involvement with the group will give young people a chance to “explore and understand” how Northlake police interact with people at the local level, Nissen said.

“I look forward to tackling some questions and being transparent, because the whole goal is to say, this is what we do, and then prove it,” Nissen said. “… She could send a message back to her school and represent her peers, and have a direct conduit to us.”

Diaz said she wants to make sure local leaders are doing something about the issues she cares about.

“If I don’t see something being done, then I can put my voice out there and try to get something to be done,” Diaz said.

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