State Board wants schools to reduce number of suspensions, expulsions

The State Board of Education (SBE) wants school districts to review their zero tolerance policies on suspensions and expulsions in an effort to reduce the number of times they are used to discipline students for minor problems.

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) gave the SBE a draft document incorporating changes to the current policy. After public comments, the SBE is expected to approve the changes in May.

The draft language encourages school districts to use suspensions and expulsions only for serious offenses like “individuals who possess weapons, commit arson, engage in criminal sexual conduct, make bomb threats, and those who commit physical assault against another.”

In its rationale for the policy change, MDE cited research that shows minority students, special education students, and students from low-income families are most often targeted for suspensions and expulsion and are disproportionately affected both academically and socially.

The SBE wants schools to look at other alternatives to dealing with student discipline issues. It also recommends school districts collect and use data to measure discipline and how they respond to issues.