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Last Updated: 07/13/2017
 

Michigan Students Could Not Be Kicked Out For Being Truant Under New Legislation

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MIRS, April 13, 2016

 
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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