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.