State education officials say it might
be time for schools to end automatic suspensions and expulsions for certain
infractions. They say Michigan’s “zero tolerance” policies could be harming
students instead of protecting them.
Under federal education laws, schools
must expel students if they bring a firearm to school. But the state and local
districts extend mandatory suspensions and expulsions to things like fighting
and bringing alcohol to school.
“Do we really want to put kids out of
school to miss valuable instruction over those types of things when it doesn’t
affect the safety of the environment?” said Kyle Guerrant, deputy
superintendent of administrative services with the Michigan Department of
Guerrant says that kind of behavior
warrants strict punishment. But he says forcing students to miss class might
not be the answer.
“We’ve done that now for 13 or 14 years
and we know the consequences that come from that,” he said. “And it doesn’t
really have the impact – especially on the academic side of things – that I
think was hoped for as part of that, because we’re losing so many kids and so
many hours to suspensions and expulsions.”
Education officials may soon formally
ask lawmakers to approve legislation allowing the state to collect data on
automatic suspensions and expulsions, as well as ease the state’s
The Michigan Board of Education is also
weighing new guidelines for how schools should deal with behavioral problems.
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