We are in a monumental moment here at SAC and hope you will join us to advocate for changes that our students and families have lifted up for YEARS.
For more than 20 years, SAC families have told us over and over again about how unfair school discipline hearings have been. Delayed hearings. No notice. Minds made up. No impartial hearing. No real effort to find an alternative to kicking a student out. No way to appeal. No support when the student is kicked out. And more recently, forced into virtual school without due process.
We have been advocating for children for decades, and now, we have an opportunity to change the system that is causing so much harm.
This week, Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit), Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) and Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Township) introduced Senate Bills 634-636 and House Bills 5297-5299 to prevent school removals and ensure that students’ due process rights are protected. We have been working with Sen. Irwin for close to two years on these bills and we are so excited that they are now being introduced!
It’s not a moment too soon. Even this month, students have been forced into virtual schools without a chance to tell their side of the story or have alternatives considered.
The urgency feels real for parents like Kristine, whose 10-year-old is currently on a long-term suspension with no right to appeal. It’s heart wrenching to bear witness to the pain inflicted by harsh school discipline.
You can hear Kristine share her story herself in our press conference.
“This is the ultimate rejection to have your school kick you out like this,” she shared. “They are doling it out like it’s no big deal. But to kids, it’s a really big deal. And to the parents, too.”
Kristine’s son has several disabilities and the suspension has been enormously stressful for him, exacerbating behaviors at home. Kristine and her SAC advocate shared a long list of alternatives to long-term removal but nothing was discussed at the discipline hearing. “They just had their mind made up,” she said.
We think back to students who have been hurt by lengthy delays in hearings, refusal to incorporate parent and student voice, and refusal to really deliberate over the 7 factors required by state law (including consideration of age, disability and whether an alternative would better address the behavior). We think of parents like Andrea, whose family was so hurt by harsh discipline (see her story here).
We hope that the changes in the bills will help reduce unnecessary removals and create a more fair school discipline process. Many of the provisions are widely recognized as the “basics” and many districts already take these steps. In fact, In 1975, the US Supreme Court in Goss v. Lopez found that education is a property right and that students should, at minimum, receive a hearing when facing suspension.
This legislation would codify student due process rights by requiring that:
- Students be granted a disciplinary hearing within 10 days unless a delay is requested by the student or parent/guardian;
- Students and their families be provided with the specific disciplinary complaints at least 5 days prior to the hearing, including a copy of any evidence and an explanation of the hearing procedures including the student’s rights during that hearing;
- Students receive access to all schoolwork that is missed and other services as needed;
- Districts consider if homelessness may have been a factor or if a trauma-responsive behavior plan would properly address the violation or behavior before removal;
- Students are afforded an avenue for appealing disciplinary actions before an independent hearing officer.
Please take action today and urge that these bills receive a hearing.