Lawmakers considering changes to school expulsion rules - WNEM TV 5

Lawmakers considering changes to school expulsion rules

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Every year, Michigan school districts suspend and expel hundreds of kids with no rules in place to track their education. Now, lawmakers are proposing new rules forcing schools to take a harder look before handing down harsh punishment.

The last thing anyone at Bay-Arenac Community High School wants to do is make learning more difficult. As an alternative school, students already have a tough time with education.

"This school is a second chance school and one of the things that we try very hard not to do is put kids out of the classroom. In fact, sometimes to the chagrin of my teachers, I'm not suspending kids,” Superintendent Erin Sullivan said.

Sullivan said she’s ready for rule changes to make it harder for students to be suspended and expelled.

"We want them in the classroom,” she said. “What comes out of them being out of school, no learning is going on, their social skills are maybe being reverted and by the time they get back to us they're angry with us and they're behind.”

A package of bills in Lansing would give all students, sixth grade and above, a break by eliminating suspension and or expulsion for chronic absence - requiring school boards to consider restorative justice for other infractions instead of suspension.

Measures include conferences between victims and student offenders, and allowing students to repair the harm they caused instead of being kicked out.

The new rules also require consideration for student's age, disciplinary history, disabilities if any and the seriousness of the violation before suspension or expulsion takes place.

While these measures would apply statewide, Sullivan said her students are already leery of the system.

"We have conflict resolution, so we work through these conflicts with the kids before, during and after the issue takes place,” she said.

Sullivan said a lot more students will stay in traditional classrooms if it becomes tougher to suspend or expel students for minor infractions.

Even if the rules change, serious offenses involving weapons, assaults or bomb threats will still result in expulsion and possibly even criminal charges.

The bills are currently in the early stages and still need to pass through a House committee.

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