Michigan lawmakers are introducing new rules to attempt to reduce the number of school children with long expulsions and suspensions.  There were 1,347 expulsions from Michigan schools in the 2014-2015 school year.  According to a Detroit Free Press article, 8% of them were permanent, 45% of the expulsions were for almost a full school year, with the median number of days expelled being 157 days.

Those numbers do sound long, but each case does need to be looked at in an individual basis.

It is understandable that we as a society want to keep kids in school, but at what harm to the staff, and to the children in school who are not doing something to get them expelled or suspended?

Some Michigan lawmakers want to give schools in Michigan greater flexibility in who is expelled or suspended, and for how long.  Apparently, Michigan’s expulsion rules go above federal guideline.

Does giving schools more flexibility in who they expel or suspend sound like a good idea to you, or will it make the matter worse?  Worse, due to the fact that a student in one school district could be expelled or suspended for an offense, but not another student in a different district for the same offense.

In a recent Detroit Free Press article, the executive director of the Student Advocacy Center, Peri Stone-Palmquist, was quoted telling lawmakers "Our current school code sends the message that we don't care enough to teach our students to learn from their mistakes”.  Understandable, but again, at what expense to the children who do behave and follow the rules?

There is a package of bills in the House (HB 5618-5621) with bipartisan support that would require Michigan schools to consider the following factors when doling out expulsions or suspensions:

  • a student's age
  • disciplinary history
  • the seriousness of the violation before suspending or expelling a student for truancy, chronic absenteeism or any of the other reasons schools can expel or suspend students.

These Michigan lawmakers want our schools to consider using alternatives to expulsions and suspension.  Alternatives “such as one that brings the victim and offender together to discuss the incident, allowing victims to get answers and heal and offenders to understand the impact of their actions”.

According to Michigan law, reasons for which students were expelled during the 2014-15 school year were:

  • Illicit drugs, 264; alcohol, 14 and tobacco, 12
  • Weapons possession (other than firearms), 212; firearms possession, 28
  • Physical violence without injury, 179; physical violence with injury, 78
  • Bomb or similar threat, 19; arson, 12

Michigan law states that a student can be expelled for following circumstances:

  • A student in sixth grade or above who physically assaults another student at school must be suspended or expelled for up to 180 days. A student in sixth grade or above who physically assaults an employee must be expelled permanently.
  • A student who possesses a weapon, commits arson or commits criminal sexual conduct in a school building or on school grounds must be expelled permanently. In the case of weapons, districts have some flexibility. For instance, if a child can prove he or she didn’t knowingly possess the weapon, expulsion isn’t required.
  • A student can be suspended or expelled if guilty of gross misconduct or persistent disobedience.
  • A student in sixth grade or above who commits a verbal assault against a school employee or makes a bomb threat or similar threat directed at a school building can be suspended or expelled for a period that is up to the discretion of the district.

I understand that keeping children in school is the best thing for them personally.  However, is it the best for the other children who are just trying to get an education?

Let’s talk about this today on The Live with Renk Show which airs Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to noon. To let me know your thoughts during the show please call (269) 441-9595.

Or please feel free to start a discussion and write your thoughts in the comment section.