Michigan’s new law on restorative justice has put pressure on schools to rethink their school discipline programs.
From the district level to individual classrooms, educators are being asked to follow a new set of guidelines when it comes to disciplining students who violate school policies.
Here’s what Michigan educators need to know about this new law:
In December 2016, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law that requires Michigan schools to consider using restorative practices as an alternative to zero-tolerance policies like suspension or expulsion, which have been shown to have an array of damaging effects on certain student populations. You can see a screenshot of the language from this bill below:
Essentially, schools are being asked to consider seven factors before resorting to the suspension or expulsion of students. You can see these seven factors broken down in the infographic below:
This law does not say that schools can never suspend or expel a student for deviant behavior. It simply asks them to be more intentional about who they are submitting to zero tolerance policies and why.
Before making any decisions, schools are asked to evaluate these factors and then ask:
Would a lesser intervention than suspension or expulsion appropriately address this behavior?
If the answer is yes, then schools ought to first turn to restorative practices.
If the answer is no, they still have the right to suspend or expel a student, so long as they can justify this response.
“We are giving school districts the flexibility to consider many factors when making decisions on disciplinary actions for students,” Gov. Snyder says. “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.”
When dealing with the seven common infractions listed below, the state recommends trying restorative practices as a first step:
More serious crimes — such as bringing a firearm to school — are still grounds for automatic expulsion. What we’re seeing here isn’t zero tolerance against zero tolerance policies, but rather, a push away from our ineffective and harmful history of removing students in need from schools and toward a system with more positive and long-lasting effects.
Do your students need more support in restorative justice & social-emotional learning?
Suite360 offers a digital library of customizable, grade-appropriate lessons on over 600 topics, including bullying, mental health issues, drugs, alcohol, vaping, and many more. This program aligns with restorative justice goals by allowing you to assign targeted lessons to students in in-school suspension (ISS) based upon their infraction.
Your Guide to Restorative Justice in Michigan Schools
This blog is the first in our upcoming series on Restorative Justice in Michigan Schools. In the coming weeks, we will be releasing articles on:
- How zero tolerance policies affect Michigan students
- Restorative Justice 101: History & practice
- Strategies for implementing RJ in your school, district, or classroom
- And more!
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