School eases zero-tolerance policies

Posted at 6:04 PM, May 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-25 18:04:46-04

Studies have shown that when schools suspend or expel kids, kids are more likely to fail or drop out of school. Now state lawmakers are calling on schools to look at different ways to discipline kids. On Thursday a House Education Committee will discuss their bills that aim to make sure it happens.

7 Action News told you how at Crestwood High School in Dearborn Heights they got rid of zero tolerance policies.  The result? They cut down on their out of school suspensions and decreased their drop out rate by 400%. Now, lawmakers are calling on other schools  to do the same.

Ninth grader Jaquan Smith is a living example of the impact. He used to go to a school with zero tolerance policies. If kids messed up so many times, they got kicked out. He says he got suspended once for talking too much in class. It impacted his attitude about school.

“It makes me feel like I don’t belong in the school, because you aren’t supposed to get suspended for talking,” said Smith.

This year he enrolled in the Crestwood School District in Dearborn Heights. It made a difference.

“I had Ds and Es before. Now I have Cs and Bs,” he said.

He said it is because he is missing less class due to disciplinary actions. 

“Crestwood has become a destination district, which is great,” said Principal John Tafelski.

Tafelski says parents are coming to his district in some cases after they feel their district gave out unreasonable discipline to kids. 

It wasn’t always like this. About 3 years ago, Crestwood also had zero tolerance policies. Miss class so many times, get a suspension.

"300 to 400 kids a month would get suspended,” said Tafelski.

Not anymore. Last month, there were only 12 kids suspended out of school.

State lawmakers have introduced legislation calling on schools around the state to do as Crestwood. Stop suspending kids for missing class. Get rid of zero tolerance policies. And, use restorative justice programs to find alternative punishments.

Instead of getting an out of school suspension at Crestwood, kids might face after school detention, lunch detention, community service, or have to meet with a counselor.

School social worker Chris Muessner says kids still face consequences, but they are consequences with a solution and message in mind.

“Every kid matters,” said Muessner.  “While you are at Crestwood you matter. What you do matters and we are going to support you in any way we can to make you fell comfortable and wanted in this environment.”

“We’re getting to know the kids as opposed to just saying you missed so you are suspended or you failed. We are trying to solve the problem,” said Tafelski.