New Law to Replace Zero Tolerance in Michigan SchoolsSep 22, 2017, by Criminal Defense, Legal Blog in
In December 2016, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill into law that abolished the state’s zero tolerance policy for delinquent students. The measure, which went into effect August 1, 2017, gives schools a broader range of options for dealing with students who break the rules. Previously, schools were legally obligated to expel students who brought dangerous weapons to school or committed other serious misdeeds. Now, schools can consider the broader picture and determine whether expulsion is the best solution for problematic students.
This new approach to the discipline of children mirrors recent reforms in the Michigan criminal justice system. According to Governor Snyder, “we are giving school districts the flexibility to consider many factors when making decisions on disciplinary actions for students. No longer will every student be immediately suspended or expelled due to misconduct. This is similar to measures we have taken to reform our criminal justice system by emphasizing restorative justice.”
What Was Michigan’s Zero Tolerance Policy, and Why Did it Need to Go?
Before the shift away from the zero tolerance policy, Michigan schools had to permanently expel any student that committed any of the following:
- Bringing dangerous weapon to school
- Engaging in criminal sexual conduct
- Committing arson
- Physically assaulting a school employee or volunteer
Suspensions or temporary expulsions were mandated for students who:
- Physically assaulted another student
- Verbally assaulted a student, school employee, or volunteer
- Made a bomb threat
As a result of these policies, Michigan schools expelled over 1,300 students during the 2015-2016 school year. Around 40% of these students were expelled because they engaged in “prohibited behaviors.” Bring weapons to school was the second most frequent reason for expulsion, accounting for 20% of the total.
When children are expelled from school, they don’t just lose out on their education, they become socially isolated. Additionally, the expulsion may place a strain on parents, who cannot make a living while supervising their children.
How Will Michigan Schools Handle Misbehavior Going Forward?
Under the new law, there is only one situation that warrants a mandatory expulsion: bringing a firearm to school. Otherwise, Michigan school officials who want to expel or suspend a student must first take into account the following factors:
- Disciplinary history
- Seriousness of behavior
- Whether there was a safety risk
- Whether an action besides expulsion or suspension can address the behavior
For example, if a student brings a knife to school, the school may choose to not expel the student if it’s the first time the student has demonstrated bad behavior, and if the knife was not used in a threatening way.
Davis Law Group Can Help
This change to school policy does not affect criminal charges that may stem from an incident at school. An assault or the brandishing of a weapon may no longer result in immediate expulsion from school, but it may still result in a criminal conviction.
At Davis Law Group, we believe everyone, especially children, deserve a second chance. If you or a family member are facing juvenile criminal charges, a Detroit criminal defense lawyer can help. Call us today at (313) 818-3238, or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation.