‘It’s just easier to kick a kid out’: Progress is elusive three years after school discipline reforms in Michigan

By Koby Levin  |  ChalkBeat 

On a Sunday afternoon last summer, four children slipped into their Detroit charter school through an unlocked window, took popsicles from a refrigerator, and fled.

What happened next wasn’t supposed to happen anymore in Michigan.

The students — two girls ages 9 and 10, and two 13-year-old boys — were suspended for the rest of the school year, about three weeks. The school board added that the students couldn’t return unless their parents made an appearance at the school to explain their behavior.

Three years ago, outrage over such punitive responses to student misbehavior fueled a major overhaul of Michigan’s school discipline laws, which were among the nation’s strictest at the time. In order to suspend or expel students under the new law, school boards must consider seven factors, including the student’s age, disciplinary history, disability, and whether a lesser consequence would be effective.

That didn’t happen at Joy Prep, said Arlyssa Heard, a policy analyst and parent organizer with 482Forward who attended the meeting when the students were suspended. She noted that they changed schools after the incident, further disrupting their education.

“Had they followed the seven factors, they would never have suspended the kids,” Heard said. “It’s just easier to kick a kid out, especially if it’s what they consider a bad apple. But it’s far more productive to get to the bottom of what’s going on with the student.”

(Editor’s Note: It is also not Progressive. Kids are kids, yes, and all make mistakes, but breaking and entering, theft and possible property damage is something else. Secondly, is it the governments position that it should on a wholesale basis get into the heads of the kids. Our quick review is the board did what is both prudent and correct. But what the hell do we know.)

The principal and school board members at Joy Prep did not return requests for comment.

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