Major Change to Michigan Schools’ Zero-Tolerance Policies Goes Into Effect
For years, Michigan schools have been restrained by “zero-tolerance” policies, orders from the government to expel any students involved in certain activities, including the possession of “dangerous weapons.” For years, the State of Michigan placed restrictions on the discretion with which schools could handle their affairs. A new law, signed by the governor in December, changes that. Beginning this August, Michigan schools are no longer bound by the heavily restrictive “zero-tolerance” policies of the past and now have the authority to judge each student’s behavior individually.
The Old Way
Until passage of this new law, immediate expulsion was required if a student brought a dangerous weapon to school, committed arson, assaulted a volunteer or member of the school’s staff, or engaged in any criminal sexual conduct. For those students found responsible for any of the allegations above, there was little recourse against the policy. School administrators’ hands were tied and they didn’t have the power to use their judgment on a case-by-case basis.
The New Law
According to new legislation, much more control is placed back in the hands of the schools. Before expelling or suspending a student, the school must evaluate his or her circumstances based on seven factors:
- The student’s age.
- The student’s disciplinary history.
- Any disability from which the student suffers.
- The seriousness of the student’s behavior.
- Whether or not the activity in question presented a risk to anyone’s safety.
- Whether or not restorative practices have been used.
- Whether some action less than expulsion or suspension would correct the behavior.
What This Means For Your Child
This change in policy is good news for those students facing disciplinary action from their schools. It is, however, wise to bring legal counsel to assist in these matters. Because the change in the law is so recent, it’s important to have a first-rate attorney with you to explain to the school administrators two key points. First, that they are now allowed to look at the bigger picture, to take into consideration the totality of your child’s circumstances when deciding the best way to handle his or her case. Second, once the school understands the discretion they have, you need someone to help convince them why some punishment less than expulsion will achieve all the school’s objectives and prevent against any future behavioral problems.
In today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, you need to protect your child from any unnecessary blemishes on his or her record. An expulsion or suspension can wreak on havoc on a child’s future, and studies show that expulsions and suspensions tend to lead young people down the wrong road. The “prison to pipeline” phenomenon is one of the main reasons this new law has been enacted. You and your child deserve an advocate who will both educate the educators and fight to ensure your child receives fair results. To speak with an attorney who has experience dealing with Michigan schools and fighting against expulsions, call (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form. One of LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.’s top defense lawyers will consult with you regarding your options. Expulsion is justified in only the most extreme cases. We can help your child start off a life free from the disadvantaging impact of an inappropriate and unnecessary expulsion.