In a resolution dated June 12, 2012, the Michigan State Board of Education states its call to end zero tolerance policies in no uncertain terms:
Given the steadily increasing use of zero tolerance policies, the alarming rate of suspensions in school districts across Michigan, the lack of evidence these policies improve safety, and negative impact these disciplinary actions are having on student outcomes, the State Board of Education calls for schools across the state to adopt discipline policies without mandated suspension or expulsion for issues that do not involve weapons.
The Board, along with the Superintendent of Public Instruction, remains absolutely committed to policies that preserve the safest environment possible for students, staff, and volunteers in all of the state’s schools. There is a mounting body of evidence, however, that suggests safety can be maintained, and educational outcomes can be improved, by reducing the number of student suspensions and expulsions.
The resolution also notes, "When students are repeatedly suspended, they are at substantially greater risk of leaving school altogether" and that "studies show that certain groups of students, including African-American children, Latino children, and children with disabilities, are suspended and expelled in rates disproportionate to their population. Zero-tolerance policies are significant contributors to these disparities, primarily because of subjective enforcement."
The board calls for a review of current policy by all school districts. The resolution calls on schools to:
Implement or expand the use of proven alternative behavior management strategies like restorative practices, positive behavior supports, and peer mediation, which allow educators to address disciplinary matters correctively, rather than punitively, reducing suspensions. School staff need effective pre-service and professional development opportunities to garner the skills and knowledge necessary to implement these alternative behavior management strategies. [emphasis added]
Download a 2-page PDF of the Michigan State Board of Education "Resolution to Address School Discipline Issues Impacting Student Outcomes" here.
(Thanks to Bill Sower of the Christopher and Virginia Sower Center for Successful Schools for forwarding this news.)
This trend to examine zero tolerance policies that mandate the use of suspension and expulsion as punishment in schools seems to be growing.
In an article entitled "Changes in CPS disciplinary code including restorative justice welcomed by Mansfield Institute" Roosevelt University's Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation "applaud[s] the Chicago Public Schools for a plan allowing restorative justice techniques at area schools." And Frank McAlpine in the Windy City Times adds his view with a piece titled "Restorative Justice: A More Human Approach."
And note that the Colorado legislature recently outlawed Zero Tolerance policies in schools and included an explicit mention of "restorative justice" in the bill. See the blog post about this here.
Please, if people reading this are aware of other moves in their area to counter zero tolerance in schools, please forward those articles and that news to us!