LANSING — Legislation to give more flexibility to schools regarding their “zero-tolerance” policies was unanimously approved last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee. House Bill 5618, sponsored by state Representative Andy Schor (D-Lansing), was the main bill of the bipartisan, seven-bill package that would give more flexibility to decide if suspension or expulsion is the best discipline for a given situation. The bills now await action on the Senate floor.

“These bills help utilize common sense in dealing with incidents in schools, rather than automatically penalizing a student, regardless of intention,” said Rep. Schor. “We have heard too many stories of children being suspended or expelled for bringing a butter knife to school or for forgetting that their nail clippers had a small knife on them.”

Following a number of school attacks in the 1990s, many states moved toward stricter school discipline laws in response to federal mandates to increase school safety. Research has shown that increases in suspensions or expulsions do not result in reduced incidences. Instead, students subject to either punishment are far more likely to drop out of school and suffer academically and socially. This often ends with students in the criminal justice system.

“What started out as good intentions resulted in a one-size-fits-all approach that has boxed in schools and unnecessarily damaged the futures of too many kids,” said Rep. Schor. “This new law will give schools discretion and result in the return of common sense when it comes to disciplinary actions.”