SAC operates a statewide Student Rights Helpline staffed by a part-time social worker (with extensive experience in the schools and working with youth in foster care), with the help of social work interns. This Helpline is currently the only place in the state for general education students facing expulsion or long-term suspension to receive no-cost support and education advice.
Each year, we are seeing dramatic increases in call volume; we served 192 clients during the 2014-2015 school year, and 322 during the 2015-2016 school year.
Families have learned about us online, from the Michigan Department of Education, intermediate school districts, foster care workers, probation officers and others. Families call for a variety of reasons, including denial of enrollment, repeated suspensions, facing expulsion or long-term suspension, help with reinstatement or other post-expulsion services, disability-related bullying, and much more.
Intake specialists assess client need with empathy and determine needed supports. This can include assigning the client to a staff advocate, SAC volunteer advocate, or providing information and resources. Our intake specialists have reviewed records, assisted in writing letters to schools, filing complaints, contacted school officials on family’s behalf, developed plans of action, researched resources and more. Our goal is to help the student get back in school, avoid a long-term removal, find a better learning path, and ultimately experience more school success.
We can get a lot done by phone! Successes are many, such as the case with the foster parent of a 17-year-old student with refugee status. She called because her foster child had been denied enrollment at the local high school and referred instead to a GED program. SAC explained to the foster parent that the student was eligible for immediate enrollment in school under federal law. When she went back to the school with information on the law, the student was immediately enrolled. When staff followed up with the foster mom, she reported that the student was adjusting well and happy with her school placement.
We received a call from the parent of a 9th grade student who had been expelled. He applied for reinstatement but was denied. Helpline staff contacted the school to get records and more information. After this contact, the student was offered an alternative on-line program through the school. Mom felt that it was our contact that prompted the alternative plan. The school had never offered services before.
A 4th grade student is faced expulsion for threatening another student. The student had been out of school 14 days when the dad called SAC. Helpline staff advised Dad of the student’s rights, allowing him to advocate for his son at a meeting the next day. At the meeting, it was decided that the student would be allowed to return to an alternate program next day.
Call (734) 482-0489 or if necessary, 1-855-688-1916
TTY (relay access service): Dial 711 and give the operator our number.
Amy Wilhelm, firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: We do not have full-time staffing of the helpline, so please be patient with us. Currently, this service is funded completely by donors like you. Consider a gift today to help us sustain and expand this work.