Children couldn't be kicked out of school for
being chronically absent from school under legislation that
received its first hearing in a Senate committee this afternoon.
SB 0405, SB 0406, SB 0407 and SB 0408 are designed to force
school districts and probate judges, in some cases, to work out
solutions to children's truancy problems, as opposed to kicking
them out of school.
Sen. Tonya SCHUITMAKER (R-Lawton), one of the bill sponsors,
said the goal is to end the "prison pipeline," in which
teenagers are suspended or expelled for truancy that, in some
cases, stems from situations outside of their control.
The Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee heard
from Christopher SQUARE, a Detroit student who was kicked out of
school for bringing a gun to school. He said he was sent to
juvenile detention without letting him explain his situation.
Square said he was expelled from school, which made him fall
victim to the school-to-prison pipeline.
"How can students better their future when they are expelled
from school?" he asked. "We need you to support these changes so
that when students are in trouble, they have support instead of
taking away our education and neglecting our needs."
Midland Probate Judge Dorene ALLEN gave other examples of why
some children are truant from school. Mom doesn't have the money
to put gas in the car to get the child to school. The city bus
is late one day or doesn't come at all. The older child is asked
to stay home to watch over a sibling so the parent can get to
work. The family doesn't have a warm coat for the kids.
"If we don't address these basic issues, we end up with these
children in the justice system and at that point, we've failed
them," Allen said. "We need to stop the prison pipeline because
the cost is the waste of a child's future."
The legislation clarifies that probate court has jurisdiction in
truancy cases and parents can be brought to court, if need be.
However, the point of the bills is to have school officials to
deal with truancy issue with common definitions sent in state
law, said Sen. Judy EMMONS (R-Sheridan), chair of the Senate
committee and sponsor of [ ] SB 0407 and [ ] SB 0408.
Michigan ranks 37th in high school graduation rates, according
to statistics shared in committee today. Nearly half of all
Michigan prisoners have no high school diploma or GED while 72
percent can't read at a 3rd grade level.
Child truancy was fingered as a major cause for these issues.
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