Mandatory Suspension and Expulsion Offenses

This month, we return to our theme of student discipline.  This article discusses Michigan’s mandatory expulsion and punishment offenses.  Next month’s article will discuss the discipline of special education students.

Like me, you may recall the time before the Legislature thought it was necessary to “help” school districts with student discipline.  The Legislature became more confident in its ability to regulate student behavior in the mid-1990s and, as a result, passed new laws intended to make schools safer by requiring school districts to expel or otherwise punish students in certain cases.  The Legislature’s first cut at the subject is codified in Section 1311 of the Revised School Code, MCL 380.1311.

Section 1311(2), as we know, requires districts to permanently expel student who: possess dangerous weapons at school; commit arson in a school building or on school grounds; or, commit criminal sexual conduct (CSC) in a school building or on school grounds.  So far, so good.  Unfortunately, the statute goes on to define the terms dangerous weapons, arson and CSC in language only a lawyer could love.  A full description would try your patience and, for that reason, will not be attempted here.  It is sufficient to note that not every weapon is dangerous, not all deliberately set fires are arson and not all unacceptable sexual activity is CSC.

Not satisfied, the Legislature carved out four exceptions to the dangerous weapons expulsion requirement.  District are not required to permanently expel a student who possesses a dangerous weapon at school if it is persuaded, by clear and convincing evidence, that: the student did not possess the dangerous weapon for use as a weapon, or for delivery to another person to use as a weapon; the student did not know he possessed a weapon; or, the student possessed the dangerous weapon at the suggestion of or with the permission of school or police officials.  Thus, the Legislature specifically endorsed innovative defenses such as: “I use that knife to clean my fingernails” and “What gun?  I didn’t know I had a gun.” Read more here.

Additional Insights...

Mackinac Center Challenges Taylor Agency Shop Extension

2012 PA 349, commonly called the Right-to-Work Law, takes effect later this month, on March 28, 2013.  After that date, employers will be prohibited from agreeing to “agency shop” provisions in collective bargaining agreements, i.e., provisions that require employees to pay union dues or service fees.  Put differently, after the law takes effect, individual union members will decide for themselves whether to support the union financially, or not. Read more here.

A Chemistry Experiment Gone Awry

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently examined a situation which could have occurred at any high school in America.  The matter involved student injuries sustained during a seemingly routine chemistry class demonstration.  The facts, as summarized by the Court, seemed innocuous enough – 
The demonstration consisted of a wooden board that was about 12 to 15 inches long with four Petri dishes affixed to the board. Each dish contained a different  metal—copper, lithium, strontium, or sodium—and each was combined with ethyl alcohol and then lit on fire to produce a flame.  Read more here.