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Sonia Yaco was the 1972 Human Rights Party candidate for the Ann Arbor, Michigan school board. When she ran for office at the age of fifteen, she became the youngest documented candidate ever for a publicly elected school board seat in the United States.
Calling for student voice in school leadership, Yaco was a youth activist with Youth Liberation of Ann Arbor. After announcing her campaign and working with allies from the Human Rights Party, Yaco completed the procedural requirements for candidacy by submitting a petition with signatures from more than eighty-five qualified electors requesting that she be certified as a candidate. The Office of Operations of the Ann Arbor Public Schools denied certification of Yaco's candidacy in an attempt to stop her bid for a seat.
On June 7, 1972 the Human Rights Party requested a court hearing to stop the vote from happening before the trial was held. Their request for a preliminary injunction was denied by a district court judge. The election was held on June 12, 1972, without Yaco's name on the ballot, but Yaco received eight percent of the total votes as a write-in candidate.
The Human Rights Party filed a lawsuit with the US District court for eastern Michigan, Human Rights Party v. Secretary of State for Michigan. They requested that the court declare the statute unconstitutional on the ground that it denies persons under eighteen years of age equal protection of the law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court argued that Court in Oregon v. Mitchell, YMCA Vote at 18 Club v. Board of Elections of the City of N.Y. and McGowan v. Maryland provided precedents of age deterrents. In YMCA Vote at 18 Club..., in particular, the court had specifically found that school boards can exclude students under eighteen from running for school-board seats, primarily because of concerns about "maturity." The case eventually went to the Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court ruling.
Yaco went on to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison in Madison, Wisconsin, and works in the field of archival records and administration. She has been the director Social Justice Projects and Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago Library; Head of Special Collections and University Archives at University of Illinois at Chicago; and special collections librarian and university archivist at Old Dominion University. Effective August 2018 she is associate director of Special Collections and University Archives at Rutgers University.
- Gross, R. and Gross, B. (1977). The Children's Rights Movement: Overcoming the Oppression of Young People. New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday. p. 130.
- "HRP Backs Another Underage 'Candidate'", Ann Arbor News, May 11, 1974
- Y B SCHWARTZ, Edmond F DeVine (October 30, 2011). Human Rights Party of Washtenaw County v. Secretary of State of Michigan U.S. Supreme Court Transcript of Record with Supporting Pleadings. Gale. ISBN 1270580914.
- Mosher, M. (2000) "Youth Liberation of Ann Arbor: Young, Gifted and Media-Savvy", Bad Subjects. #47, January 2000. Retrieved May 6, 2007.
- Sonia Yaco C.V., 2007, accessed 24 Feb. 2008. Archived November 18, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- "Sonia Yaco Appointed Associate Director of Special Collections and University Archives | Rutgers University Libraries". www.libraries.rutgers.edu. Retrieved 2018-11-01.