Zero Tolerance Bills Head to Governor for Signature

Legislation allows for greater discernment by teachers, administrators
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

LANSING —Legislation sponsored by Reps. Andy Schor (D-Lansing), Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor), David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) and several other Democrat and Republican representatives passed the Senate and was concurred by the House today, and is now on its way to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk. The package, House Bills 5618-5621, and 5693-5695 allow local schools more flexibility when deciding on whether suspension, expulsion, or some other form of discipline is best for an individual student in a specific circumstance.

“Passage of this legislation is a big victory for students and schools,” said Rep. Schor. “Moving forward, schools will no longer be required to suspend or expel students for accidents and inadvertent acts, and will have more discretion regarding disciplinary actions. Understanding intent is important in these situations, and we have heard too many terrible stories of students removed from school for an accidental violation, then slowly falling into the school to prison pipeline.”

In the 1990s, many states moved towards stricter disciplinary measures seeking to ensure student safety and reduce the number of behavioral problems. Research since then has clearly shown these policies do not reduce problems, and instead result in students suffering academically and socially. This results in students becoming more likely to drop out, and more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.

“It is important when working with legislation that deals with the safety of our students, that we step back and analyze periodically whether or not a bill is doing what it is supposed to be doing,” said Rep. LaGrand. “Unfortunately, the original version of this legislation was harming more students than it was helping, so it was time for us to adjust it and put it back on the course of its original intent.”

“We need common sense to prevail when decisions of suspension and expulsion of our students are being made,” said Rep. Zemke. “We listened to the stories of parents and students, and sat down with teachers and school administrators, and recognized that the current system was unfairly punishing students who had no malicious intent. These bills allow for the return of good judgement, and puts the decision-making responsibility back in the hands of those who best understand the situation.”