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Laws ease Mich. zero-tolerance school punishment

Associated Press

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder has signed laws that will ease zero-tolerance policies in public schools and give districts flexibility to consider many issues when deciding whether to punish a student.

Snyder says students will no longer be automatically expelled or suspended due to misconduct. Schools can consider a student’s age, disciplinary history, a student’s disability and whether safety was at risk.

The governor says the package of laws is the result of discussions involving educators, judges and the American Civil Liberties Union. Snyder said Thursday the laws emphasize “restorative justice.”

The package of bills, introduced with bipartisan support, relax the state's "zero tolerance" policy for certain behaviors, including bringing a weapon to school, assaulting a teacher, making a bomb threat or verbally assaulting a school employee.

"We're inserting just a little bit of common sense into the zero tolerance law," said state Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, who sponsored one of the bipartisan bills, earlier this month.

"We're telling schools that you can look at the situation and you can decide. Was this intentional? Was it unintentional? Was it a butter knife to spread butter on your bagel? Was it a knife you used going hunting over the weekend and set it in your backback?"

School officials would be required to consider whether "restorative practices" or a lesser form of intervention would be a more appropriate response than expulsion or suspension.