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Democrats call for new suspension, expulsion procedures

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Max Johnston
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A group of Democratic state lawmakers is proposing changes to the school discipline process.

They say the changes will ensure due process for students facing possible suspension or expulsion.

Proposed changes would include guaranteeing disciplinary hearings before suspensions longer than ten days, giving advanced notice of specific complaints, and providing access to missed schoolwork.

Democratic state Sen. Erika Geiss said the changes would help promote fairness within Michigan’s schools.

“With trauma-informed restorative justice techniques and discipline at the school level, we can disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and bring about racial justice in the process,” Geiss said.

Geiss cited data from the American Civil Liberties Union that shows deep racial gaps when it comes to school suspensions in Michigan.

Democratic state Rep. Felicia Brabec said decisions regarding suspension and expulsion are too important to take place without student and parental involvement.

“These bills are designed to keep our kids in school, reduce the number of students who are removed from the classroom and from the right of that education,” Brabec said.

The proposals build upon a 2016 law. It outlined a list of factors schools must consider when deciding whether to remove a student from the classroom.

Democratic state Sen. Adam Hollier said one of the toughest things he’s had to do as a member of a school board was to sit in on an expulsion hearing.

“Too often, it happens to kids who are poor, who are Black and Brown, who have learning disabilities or have special needs. And it’s happening because we failed them at some step earlier when there was an opportunity to intervene,” Hollier said.

The Democrats have introduced six total bills between the House and Senate as part of this package dealing with school discipline.