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Bipartisan bill would end many automatic school suspensions, expulsions

Jun 15, 2015

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio file photo

Democrats and Republicans in the state House want to end the state’s “zero tolerance” policies in schools.

Federal law requires schools to expel students for bringing guns to school. House Bill 4697 would end state policies forcing schools to expel or suspend students for things like bringing alcohol to school or fighting.

“It’s terrible that we’re suspending and expelling kids, kicking them out of the school environment, severing them from learning opportunities, and really driving them further away from productive activities,” said bill sponsor state Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor.

“Suspension and expulsion is usually not the right answer for these types of problems.”

The Michigan Department of Education agrees. It has urged lawmakers to end the zero tolerance policies.

A similar bill died in the state Legislature last year. But Irwin believes it has a better chance this time, partly because he says it fits nicely with Gov. Rick Snyder’s initiative to keep young people from entering the corrections system.