Across the country community groups and others concerned about young people have begun to push back against the growing trend for schools to use severe and punitive discipline in response to non-violent student misbehavior. South Carolina, like other states, has a school-to-prison pipeline. It starts when students are suspended or expelled for minor offenses, or charged with a crime under a statute like Disturbing Schools for actions that are not violent or severe.
This series of occasional posts will highlight how people and organizations in other states are working to address the school to prison pipeline, and provide ideas for how we can do the same in South Carolina.
Michigan State Board of Education Requests Districts Revisit Zero-Tolerance Policies
The eight-member Michigan State Board of Education voted earlier this month to advise school districts in the state to revise their zero-tolerance discipline policies, and to change those that exclude students from the educational process. The resolution asks districts to “adopt discipline policies without mandated suspension or expulsion for issues that do not involve weapons.”
Michigan, like other states, has statutes outlining school discipline procedures but many school districts have adopted policies that are even more stringent and permit school to suspend or expel students for additional behavior problems.
The resolution, which is advisory only, requests that districts: review existing zero-tolerance policies that go above and beyond what is required by law; limit the number of offenses that mandate suspension and referral to law enforcement to those that directly impact student and employee safety; ensure educators are aware that Michigan law provides four exceptions to laws requiring zero tolerance for weapons; and implement or expand the use of proven alternative behavior-management strategies.
Twenty school districts in the state have already been cited as having disproportionately disciplined African-American special education students, and legislators have introduced legislation that would make changes to the state’s school discipline laws.
SC Appleseed has been working with families, community members, and stakeholders around the state to help keep kids in school and avoid harsh punishments that push students out of schools. For change to happen, we must build a strong group of people who are willing to tell school leaders and policymakers that the school-to-prison pipeline must end. We need input from families dealing directly with school-discipline issues to find solutions. You have the opportunity not only to help your family and other families who may be facing similar problems, but to find solutions for students all over the state.
To participate, or just to learn more, please call SC Appleseed at (803) 779-1113, extension 108 or contact us by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.