Michigan’s so-called “zero tolerance” law for student expulsions is widely misunderstood, including by school administrators.

After hearing from several parents whose young sons were expelled by the Grand Rapids Public Schools for inadvertently bringing knives to school, the ACLU of Michigan wrote to the school district in April 2013 and explained that expulsion for such conduct is not mandated under state law; rather, school administrators have discretion to consider factors like whether the student intended to use the knife as a weapon.

In June 2013, the school district agreed to start informing students facing expulsion about the discretionary factors to develop standards to guide hearing officers in making such discretionary decisions and allow students to be represented by counsel in expulsion proceedings.

(ACLU Attorney Miriam Aukerman; Cooperating Attorney Elizabeth Geary; Pamela Hoekwater of Legal Aid of Western Michigan.)

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