Last week I was honored and delighted to celebrate Governor Snyder’s signing of legislation that loosens Zero Tolerance chokehold on school discipline. Under legislation sponsored by Representative Andy Schor and Senator Rick Jones, schools are now encouraged to consider restorative justice to address even the most severe discipline incidents that once resulted in mandatory suspension or expulsion. In fact, Senator Jones’ amendment establishes a rebuttable presumption that students should stay in school, rather than be suspended or expelled for every offense except bringing a firearm to school.
These bills haven’t gotten as much attention as the potential role-back of the state income tax. Yet, they will have a profound effect in the lives of Michigan students, their families and their schools. The US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights and Department of Justice lay out exclusionary discipline’s negative consequences in their joint Dear Colleague letter of January 8, 2014.
Studies have suggested a correlation between exclusionary discipline policies and practices and an array of serious educational, economic, and social problems, including school avoidance and diminished educational engagement;9 decreased academic achievement;10 increased behavior problems;11 increased likelihood of dropping out;12 substance abuse;13 and involvement with juvenile justice systems.14
Simply put, even short term suspensions separate students from their school community, deny them instruction time with their classmates, isolate them, further increasing their odds of misbehaving, dropping out and becoming involved with the criminal justice system. Kudos to Rep. Schor and Sen. Jones for recognizing this and taking steps to protect more children from this threat!
We empower schools to use restorative justice practices and the philosophy to enhance school climate and improve student conduct. Check out our website for a schedule of trainings and presentations and visit our Services page to see how we can continue to support your practice and help you make restorative justice the way you do business every day.