Legislation gives local school authorities flexibility on 'zero tolerance'

Local school boards will now have more discretion when making decisions on punitive actions for students, such as suspension or expulsion, under legislation signed last Thursday by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. Under existing state law, many districts employ a "zero tolerance" policy, meaning there is no ability to consider a student's age, developmental disabilities or intent when deciding on punishment.

"We are giving school districts the flexibility to consider many factors when making decisions on disciplinary actions for students," said Snyder. "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."

House Bills 5618-5621 and 5693-95, sponsored by state Reps. Andy Schor, Al Pscholka, Adam Zemke, Lisa Posthumus Lyons, Martin Howrylak, David LaGrand and Peter Lucido, respectively, will require school officials to consider situation-specific factors before suspending or expelling a child. These factors may include age and disciplinary history, whether the child has a disability, and whether the behavior threatened the safety of another student or staff member. The legislation also encourages the practice of restorative practices or lesser punishment if they properly address the violation.

The bills reflect cooperative agreement between the education community, probate judges and the ACLU. They are now Public Acts 360 through 366 of 2016.

Snyder also signed five additional bills:

- SBs 33 and 510, sponsored by state Sen. Phil Pavlov, prevent the Michigan Department of Education and the Center for Educational Performance and Information from selling or otherwise providing students' private information to third-party for-profit businesses, along with creating a new Student Online Personal Protection Act for the purposes of regulating Internet operators serving K-12 schools. The bills are now PAs 367 and 368.

- HB 4185, sponsored by the late state Rep. Julie Plawecki, allows for an appeals process for salvage vehicle inspectors who were decertified by the Department of the State. It is now PA 369.

- HB 4814, sponsored by state Rep. Jim Runestad, requires all state department websites to have one standardized layout for contact information by 2018. It is now PA 370.

- HB 5001, sponsored by state Rep. Dan Lauwers, increases the hours of education required for massage therapists to gain their license from 500 hours to 625 hours if they are enrolled in a massage therapy program on or after Aug. 1, 2017. It is now PA 371.

For additional information on this and other legislation, visit www.legislature.mi.gov.

Published: Mon, Dec 26, 2016