Avoiding Disciplinary Placement in the Michigan High School System

When you are a parent, you find yourself dreaming about what your child will do in the future. Will they be a doctor? A lawyer? An artist? You never expect them to get into trouble and be placed in an alternative education program. Most kids make mistakes in high school, but when some continuously make mistakes, or make one big one, they are referred to an alternative education program in Michigan, which can have long-term consequences on their future. Stalled academic progress, lowered confidence, and changing the trajectory of their life as a contributing member of society are just a few of the consequences that could arise from being placed in an alternative education program. Working with an attorney-advisor from the moment you learn of the possibility of the placement is the best way to ensure your child's future stays on track. Call our offices today.

Avoid Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs

In Michigan, if your child is accused of disobeying their teacher or an administrator at their school or violating the code of conduct in some other way, they can be penalized. Generally, penalties can range from anything as innocuous as a written warning and behavior contract to suspension or expulsion. The punishment is supposed to fit the behavior portrayed by the student, but sometimes students are punished much more severely than necessary.

For instance, students who are caught violating the code of conduct, even if it's their first time, could be referred to an alternative education program. And unfortunately, not all alternative education programs are what they are cracked up to be. Meaning, many parents believe that because they are termed “alternative,” that the student has some choice in attending. The name sounds harmless, as if students who are having difficulty staying on track in the regular classroom can just shift to another style of education that is more specific to their needs. But really, students who are sent to alternative learning programs could have their entire lives altered by attending them.

Alternative education programs have their own problems, such as ineffective educators and curriculum issues. Imagine being cast to a place like this, where your education essentially stops, and you are surrounded by students who have behaved much worse than you did in school. Your child could learn from these more aggressive students and come back to their regular classroom with worse behavioral issues, low self-esteem, and the inability to catch up to where the other students are in the lessons.

If you learn that your child has been referred to an alternative education program, you should do whatever you can to fight the placement. An alternative education is a penalty. We have put together the following resource to help explain Michigan's alternative education process. But understand, the best thing you can do for your child is to reach out to an attorney-advisor for help. Attorney-advisors understand these proceedings and have the inimitable understanding and experience of the law, which they can leverage to ensure your child is able to graduate from their regular school, on time, and with their classmates. Don't let your child get left behind. Call us today.

Student Codes of Conduct for School Discipline in Michigan

In Michigan, the school districts are supposed to prepare students to not only behave well in society, but also educate them academically so that they can thrive as members of society. To do this, each district must create certain codes of conduct that stipulate what behavior is appropriate, and what is not. The language of the codes changes from school to school, but essentially, they cover the same topics.

At the beginning of each school year, parents and students will receive the code of conduct and are expected to review it within the first few weeks. The state of Michigan assumes that the districts will create effective codes of conduct that show the students how to behave and inspires parents to support their students in their high school endeavors. The codes must also address specific acts, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Bullying
  • Cheating and academic misconduct
  • Defacing or destroying property
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Failing to serve detention if it is assigned
  • Fighting
  • Forgery or fraud
  • Gambling
  • Harassing or intimidating other students, faculty, staff, or members of the administration
  • Hazing
  • Using a motor vehicle negligently, improperly, or recklessly
  • Leaving school without permission
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Smoking
  • Theft or possession of stolen property
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Physical assault
  • Bringing a weapon to school

The codes of conduct the district's construct will list the exact consequences the student could incur if they behave in such a way. When you work with an attorney-advisor, they will begin by reviewing the school's code of conduct to make sure your child is not being punished unreasonably.

According to Michigan's Revised School Code, if a teacher in a public school has reason to believe that a student's conduct on campus is enough that they should be suspended, they can suspend the student for up to 1 day. The teacher must then notify the school principal of the suspension and send the student to the principal's office. If the student has to continue to stay at school for an onsite suspension, they will be appropriately supervised. During their suspension, the student cannot return to school until the teacher and school principal allow them.

As soon as possible, the teacher must schedule a conference with the student's parent or guardian to discuss the suspension. It would also help if the school counselor or psychologist could be present during this meeting, as well as a school administrator if either the teacher or parent request one.

If a student in grade 6 or above commits a physical assault at school, they can be suspended for up to 180 days or expelled from the school district. To do so, the teacher will have to notify the principal, the school district superintended, and school board for approval.

If a student consistently violates the school's code of conduct, is suspended for more than a few days, or expelled, they will be referred to an alternative education program.

Emergency Removal in Michigan Schools

Though there is no exact law or regulation governing emergency removal of students to an alternative education program in Michigan, students will be removed during an emergency on a case-by-case basis. That is, if the student's behavior is so offensive or would put the other students in danger, they will be suspended or expelled from the school district. It is up to the parents or guardians to find an alternative education program for the student to attend at that time.

The Michigan Code of Student Conduct

In this section, we will discuss the Michigan Code of Student Conduct, which aims to ensure that students be educated in a safe and compassionate environment that furthers academic success and healthy development. This type of environment is created by encouraging students to connect with their peers and instructors, establishing clear expectations for student behavior, and having constructive consequences in place.

The Mission of Michigan Public Schools

The mission of Michigan's public school system is to help all students graduate ready to pursue college, careers, and helping their community. Alternative education programs are meant to ensure students with behavioral issues are able to stay on track with their education while suspended or expelled from their regular classes.

What is an Alternative Education Program in Michigan?

Michigan's alternative education programs are designed to help students who have been suspended or expelled continue to pursue their education. While the Michigan Attorney General has ruled that school districts do not have to provide alternative education programs to these students, the Michigan State Board of Education encourages them to do so. During the alternative education program, the student is given a chance to continue their education and work on their behavioral issues. In most cases, the student will only attend the alternative education program for a short while before returning back to their regular classes.

Alternative Education Program Requirements

While the school districts will differ on what their alternative education plans will offer specifically, they tend to have a few things in common:

  • It must be offered outside of the student's regular classes
  • Teachers and administrators should have training in conflict management, understand different learning styles, and be culturally literate
  • Disruptive kids should be separated from the nondisruptive kids
  • Provide counseling to students in need

Limits on Sending a Student to an Alternative Education Program in Michigan

When Michigan schools decide to refer a student for an alternative education program, it should only be for specific reasons related to long-term suspensions or expulsions. Students who have had minor behavioral issues should not be referred to these programs. An alternative education program is supposed to be reserved for students whose teachers and administrators have exhausted all other avenues of punishment to no avail. An attorney-advisor can ensure your child is not being forced to attend an alternative education program for the wrong reasons.

If your child's school decides to punish your child with a long-term suspension or expulsion, they should first hold a hearing to decide if the student is, in fact, responsible for the alleged behavior. At that hearing, you are allowed to present evidence and witnesses to defend your child. If the school determines that they are responsible, they will offer an alternative education program. You have the right to appeal this decision if you disagree with it. And unfortunately, some schools may not follow up with you for the appeal, so make sure you inquire about it yourself – or have your attorney-advisor do it. Many schools rush through disciplinary proceedings, assuming they know best, and the student's parents will just agree with them. You have to fight for your child in those moments when no one else will.

Appeal to the Rescue

As we stated above, you have the right to appeal the school's decision to send your child to an alternative education program. Appeals are incredibly important because they could be your last chance to ensure your child does not have to suffer through an alternative education program and the ramifications that will be attending one. Your attorney-advisor will be able to review the school district's policies and procedures to determine the best route for your child's appeals.

Statutory Grounds for Expulsion

In Michigan, schools can expel a student or place them in an alternative education program if they have:

  • Physically assaulted another student or school employee, volunteer, or contractor
  • Verbalized a bomb threat or threat of assault
  • Brought a weapon to school or used a weapon on campus
  • Been convicted of a criminal offense like rape, assault, or murder
  • Been found responsible for a Title IX violation or sexual misconduct
  • Consistently bullied another student

Students who are expelled for these actions are expected to spend the rest of their high school education in an alternative education program – unless they leave the state of Michigan and are admitted to a high school elsewhere. Michigan does allow its students to apply for readmission into the public school system after expulsion. An attorney-advisor will review the policies of the district, gather evidence and witnesses, and argue your child's readmission to the public school to ensure they are not sent to an alternative education program for longer than necessary.

Who Goes to Alternative Education Programs?

In Michigan, any student, at any age, can be sent to an alternative education program, though usually eighth to tenth graders are sent. Students in grades under 5th can be sent, but the actions that landed them there must be sufficiently egregious. For instance, possession of a firearm or threatening another person with a dangerous weapon will be suspended for 90 days. During that time, they are expected to attend an alternative education program.

The Downsides of Alternative Education Programs in Michigan

There are several downsides to alternative education programs, and some educators wonder if the program does not do as much good as bureaucrats would make you think.

Substandard Quality of Education

The Michigan State Board of Education has requested school districts to set up alternative education programs with the same degree of academics as regular schools. Despite this, there are no clear-cut rules surrounding the set up and running of a successful alternative education program. Because of this, there is no one to police how the teachers and administrators behave. Teachers who work in these programs tend to believe that their students are there to be punished. The programs may also lack the necessary resources to become effective.

If an alternative education program does not have interested educators or administrators who care about their students, students would be less likely to feel encouraged to learn, forcing them to slip behind their regular classmates. When they are returned to their classes, it will be hard for them to catch up, which could cause further self-esteem issues and possibly more serious behavioral concerns.

Attendance Issues

As alternative education programs are within public school districts but outside the regular bus routes, many students may find it hard to get access to reliable transportation. If this happens, it will be hard for them to consistently get to school. Without regular attendance, their grades will slip, and they may feel like they are overwhelmingly behind their friends when they do come back to the regular classroom.

Criminalizing Misconduct

Many students are sent to an alternative education program for criminal behavior, but sometimes they are sent for normal teenage behavior. They were disruptive, or they misspoke, and they are being punished for it. But removing students from their regular classrooms and transferring them to an alternative education program with students who have committed criminal offenses, can lower their self-esteem, and make them view themselves as criminals. If this happens, it can be hard for the students to maintain their grades and could cause further behavioral issues – especially if your child becomes friends with these other students and is exposed to their criminal behavior.

Discipline is Unfair

Throughout the country, black and Hispanic students are unreasonably disciplined for their behavior. According to an Open Society Foundation study from 2011, they were sent to alternative education programs at a higher rate than other students, even if they had already qualified for special education programs.

Repeat Alternative Education Programs Sessions

According to the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), if a student is sent to an alternative education program in Michigan, they will be sent to another soon after. In fact, one out of three students will be sent to alternative education programs multiple times a year. If a student falls behind during their alternative education program and is forced to attend multiple sessions a year, that could mean falling farther and farther behind and possibly having to repeat an entire school year.

High Dropout Rates

IDRA also states that students who are sent to alternative education programs have a higher chance of dropping out of high school altogether. Think about it, if their academic progress stalls while they were attending an alternative education program, they will come back to their regular classroom feeling let down by their progress. This kind of low self-esteem could cause students to retreat into themselves. They may not want to be ridiculed by the other kids anymore, forcing them to drop out. Also, if they do decide to stay in school, they may exhibit more aggressive behavior, which could land them back in an alternative education program.

Contact With the Juvenile Justice System

Exclusionary discipline such as an ALPS can have disastrous effects on students. According to the Open Society Foundation (mentioned above), alternative education programs can have seriously negative effects on students. Not only does the alternative education program inhibit your ability to progress academically, but it also causes isolation and other mental health issues. Expelled or suspended students have a higher probability of entering the juvenile justice system at some point after their alternative education program. If your child's school has referred them to an alternative education program removal, you must fight to have it overturned.

What to Do if your Child is Involved in a Disciplinary Issue at Their Michigan School

Once you learn of your child's disciplinary issues, you must act fast to try and have the thought of an alternative education program taken off the table. The principal is supposed to inform you of the incident right after it happens, but sometimes teachers or staff attempt to take the matter into their own hands and forget about school procedures. It is up to you to reach out to the school and ensure you understand the situation as they see it. For instance, after learning of the incident, you will want to follow the series of steps below.

  1. Contact the school as soon as you hear about the incident. Do not just brush it under the rug. Make sure you ask questions and gather as much information as they will tell you.
  2. Call an attorney-advisor so they can start working on your child's defense right away.
  3. Speak with your child about the incident and have them write down exactly what happened.
  4. If your child is hurt, take pictures of their wounds.
  5. Don't forget to take notes or record every conversation you have with the school or anyone who works for them or is acting on their behalf.
  6. Make your attorney-advisor copies of all of this information.
  7. Send the school's code of conduct to your attorney-advisor.

Your Child's Future is at Stake

Once you find out the school is thinking of sending your child to an alternative education program, you might think you can handle them on your own. But it is important to remember that these proceedings are actually very complex, and one misstep could place your child in more harm. This is especially true if you don't understand the nuances of the Michigan state laws and regulations. While you are mounting your defense, an attorney-advisor can help advocate on behalf of your child. They are professionals who know how to use witness testimony and evidence to better your chances of a favorable outcome.

How a Student Defense Attorney Can Help Your Child Avoid Alternative Education Programs in Michigan

Student defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and Lento Law Firm have worked tirelessly for years to help high school students in similar situations. They know how to negotiate with the powers that be to ensure your child is not punished without just cause. Don't let the school district send your child to an alternative education program without a fight. Call 888-5353686 today or schedule a consultation online. You do not have to fight this battle alone, we can help.

They have helped hundreds of high school students across the country who have been accused of disciplinary matters and referred for alternative learning placements. They understand how to negotiate with school administrators and present your child's case in a way that proves this type of punishment would be less beneficial to your child. Don't let your school district place your child in an ALPS without a fight. Lento Law Firm can help. Call 888-535-3686 today.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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