A pair of bills approved in the
Michigan House would require school districts, including conventional districts
and charter schools, to adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation or
bullying, while at the same time requiring the Department of Education to
disseminate a model policy along those lines. A similar bill has been proposed
in the Senate. House Bill 4162, introduced by Rep. Pam Byrnes, D-Lyndon
Township, would require schools to adopt a policy within six months and submit a copy to the Department of Education within 30 days after local approval. This
bill encourages districts to adopt the definition of bullying from a model
anti-bullying policy adopted by the state board of education on Sept. 12, 2006,
which contains references to an individual’s race, color, religion, ancestry,
national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression; or
a mental, physical, sensory disability or impairment, or by any other
distinguishing characteristic. The bill would cover any actions on school
premises or school buses, as well as at school-sponsored events off school
premises. It also would cover cases off school premises that involve use of
school-owned or school-controlled telecommunications access devices or service
providers. Schools would be "strongly encouraged" to adopt the model policy
under HB 4091, originally introduced by Rep. Aldo Vagnozzi, D-Farmington Hills,
on January 23, and would be advised to work with local law enforcement and
parents to implement the policy. House Bill 4091 and 4162 passed in the House,
66-43 and 59-50, respectively, on March 28. Senate Bill 107 was introduced by
Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, on Jan. 30, which would require schools to
adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, or bullying; and to require the Department of Education to develop a model policy. The bill also requires schools to train staff in the policy they adopt. It was referred to the Senate Education Committee on Jan. 30.
Unions could bargain over privatization
A law that would allow school privatization to be an issue at the bargaining table was introduced by Rep. Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale, on March 27. House Bill 4533 would repeal a law that now allows school districts freely to seek competitive bids for noninstructional services without bargaining with school employee unions. The law would apply in such cases as when a union seeks to include a provision in a school district’s contract with employees that bans the district from competitively contracting for bus, janitorial or food services. The bill was referred to the House Labor Committee on March 27.
Revising special education cross-district enrollment
Special education students would find it easier to attend programs in a neighboring intermediate school district under the terms of House Bill 4529, introduced by Rep. Fran Amos, R-Waterford, on March 22. The bill would eliminate an existing requirement that a contiguous intermediate school district must have a written agreement with a special education pupil’s district or intermediate district of residence in order for that student to be enrolled in the neighboring intermediate district and for the
neighboring district to get the state school aid payments tied to the student.
The bill was referred to the House Education Committee.
Change name of ‘sinking funds’
Introduced by Sen. Wayne Kuipers,
R-Holland, on March 21, Senate Bill 367 would allow schools to call sinking
funds ‘infrastructure investment funds’ in the ballot language of property tax
millage increase requests. The bill would not expand the allowable uses of
sinking fund revenue, or raise the current cap of five mills for these property
tax levies. The bill was referred to the Senate Education Committee.
Ban censorship of student publications
Public school officials would be prohibited from imposing prior restraint (censorship) on a student publication under Senate Bill 352, introduced by Sen. Michael Switalski, D-Roseville, on March 15. Exceptions would be allowed if the content were obscene, defamatory, constituted advertising for a product illegal for minors, or represented a clear and present danger (based on specific facts) of an unlawful act or a school disruption. The bill also would require schools to appoint a faculty advisor to student publications, prohibit disciplining a faculty advisor for refusing to censor, and provide civil immunity to school board members, administrators, and faculty advisors for any expression made by a student in the publication. The bill was referred to the Senate Education Committee.
Spending for school anti-violence programs
Introduced by Rep. Andy Meisner,
D-Ferndale, on March 8, House Bill 4439 would appropriate $1.5 million for
competitive grants to schools to pay for public safety officers and mental
health professionals. Those officials would be tasked with recognizing warning
signs and risk factors and preventing school violence and bullying. The bill was referred to the House Appropriations Committee.
Mandatory dental exams
Parents would have to prove that
their children had a dental exam after the age of 3 but before entering
kindergarten if the Legislature adopts a proposal introduced by Rep. Brenda
Clack, D-Flint, on Jan. 30. Children would be prohibited from starting
kindergarten unless the parent provided proof of the exam in the form of a
certificate from a licensed dentist. Parents also would have the option of
signing a statement saying they received information about the importance of
dental examinations, but opted against one for their child. The proposal, HB
4165, would apply to public and nonpublic school students. The House Education
Committee referred the bill to the House Health Policy Committee on March 6.