Skip to content

Rethink Discipline Timeline


1994 – Michigan enacts zero tolerance legislation mandating permanent expulsion for possession for various offenses. Michigan’s zero tolerance law exceeds the federal legislation that also allows for exceptions on a case-by-case basis of which Michigan never allowed.


1994 – Michigan senators proposed a bill to amend the juvenile code and require that an alternative education program be offered to students who are expelled. The bill was not passed.


1994 – Two state representatives later moved to require that the school board develop an individualized plan of alternative education to ensure that the progress of expelled students is similar to that of their peers. The bill was not passed.


1995 – The law was amended to add additional mandatory expulsions such as criminal sexual misconduct.  


1999 – The law was again amended, allowing teacher to suspend a student for up to one day for “good reason” and defined suspensions for physical assault and mandatory expulsions for 180 school days, which was later overruled after being found “unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.”


1999 – A senator offers an amendment to the bill requiring the school board to place students who are expelled in a suitable program to continue his or her education during expulsion. The amendment failed, but empowered some school districts and school boards to create three strict discipline academies to service at-risk students.


2003 – The Michigan Journal of Race and Law publishes: The Children Left Behind: How Zero Tolerance Impacts Our Most Vulnerable Youth by Ruth Zweifler and Julia De Beers.


2005 –  “Nowhere to Go – The devastating journey of youth expelled from Michigan schools” is published by future Executive Director Peri Stone-Palmquist, who conducted the research as a graduate student in collaboration with SAC, to bring to light the personal experiences of expelled youth.


2006 – The National Dignity In Schools Campaign started, as local grassroots and advocacy groups came together to end school pushout.  SAC became the 1st Michigan member in 2012.


2009 – In collaboration with SAC, ACLU of Michigan releases an important report called, “Reclaiming Michigan’s Throwaway Kids: Students Trapped in the School-to-Prison Pipeline” and launches a campaign to revise the state’s school discipline code.


July 2011 – In an unprecedented study of nearly 1 million Texas public secondary school students followed for more than six years, a report released by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center in partnership with the Public Policy Research Institute of Texas A&M University, showed the extent and damage of suspensions and expulsions. Shortly, thereafter, Education Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Holder announced the launch of a collaborative project – the Supportive School Discipline Initiative (Initiative) – between the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) to support the use of school discipline practices that foster safe, supportive, and productive learning environments while keeping students in school.


Summer 2013 – All Kids In School Coalition, an informal group of organizations and advocates organized by SAC, finalized a Solutions Not Suspensions pledge and began collecting signatures. More than 30 organizations and 200 individuals signed, calling on districts to end non-mandatory expulsions.


Fall 2013 –  SAC publishes a book of stories highlighting the harm of zero tolerance called: “Grim Tales Out of School.”


September 2013 – Michigan School Justice Partnership is launched around the state, bringing together several state departments, educators, judges, law enforcement, mental health, nonprofits and others to form county teams and action plans to reduce suspensions, expulsions and truancy. Student Advocacy Center participates on 3 county teams.


2014 – The Council of State Governments releases a “School Discipline Consensus Report” with strategies to keep students in school.


April 21-23, 2014 – Youth from Detroit, Ypsilanti and elsewhere joined together and organized an 80-mile walk for education from Detroit to Lansing to raise awareness about suspensions and expulsions for minor infractions. 125 people participated, including DHS Director Maura Corrigan, and State Superintendent Michael Flanagan.


August 2014 – Michigan’s Board of Education unanimously adopted a model code of conduct that emphasizes restorative practices, due process and alternatives to harmful suspension. SAC partnered with several other organizations to help develop the model code.


January 2014 – The U.S. Department of Education releases a guide for improving school climate and discipline.


Summer of 2015 – SAC worked with school board members and educators to develop a “Rethink Discipline Board Resolution,” committing districts to ending non-mandatory expulsions, analyzing discipline data and investing in alternatives. Ultimately, Washtenaw ISD, Wayne RESA, Ypsilanti Community Schools and Jackson County schools adopted the resolutions formally.


June 10, 2015 –  Youth from Ypsilanti, Jackson and Detroit and other organizations staged a “Zero Tolerance Game of Life” demonstration on the Capitol Lawn, complete with a jail cell and jumpsuit, judge costume and stations for the classroom, restorative circle, teen court, board of education, expulsion, suspension, juvenile detention and a bank.


May 3, 2016 – HB 5618-5621 and 5693-5695 are first introduced to the House of Representatives by Rep. Andy Schor, Rep. Adam Zemke, Rep. Al Pscholka, Rep. Lisa Lyons, Rep. Jeff Irwin, Rep. Peter Lucido, and Rep. David LaGrand. These are later known as the “Rethink Discipline Bills.”


Spring and Fall of 2016 – SAC youth testified before state legislators on the harm of zero tolerance and need for reform.


October 18, 2016 – Fourteen Youth Action Michigan (YAM) students and six adult allies from Ypsilanti and Detroit chapters organized a “Capitol Commencement” in Lansing to show their support for the Rethink Discipline Bills. Students presented Senators graduation caps and a “diploma” of startling facts regarding harsh school discipline.


December 2016 – President of the United States releases a report called “The Continuing Need to Rethink Discipline.”


December 2016 – “Rethink Discipline” bills passed by the Senate, Presented and Approved by Governor; Filed with Secretary of State, becomes Public Acts 360-366 of 2016


February 14, 2017 – Governor Snyder publically signs the Rethink Discipline Bills. SAC and two students traveled to Lansing to take part.


Spring / Summer 2017 – Student Advocacy Center facilitates trainings with various school districts, school boards, etc. regarding the implementation of the Rethink Discipline Bills. We develop an extensive Web site with resources to implement the new laws. SAC collaborates with a number of organizations to send a letter to every district in the state, urging careful implementation.


August 1, 2017 – Rethink Discipline Bills take effect.

January 2019 – SAC joins ACLU of Michigan and Street Democracy (in collaboration with a group of advocates) to present to the State Board of Education, raising concerns about implementation. Within weeks, the Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education were updated to reference the new discipline laws.

Our Latest Videos

Our latest videos are now available on the web. See more videos »



View our sample letters to help you craft letters to your child's school. View our Create-A-Letter Page »

Our Programs

Photo of student writing on a whiteboard.

We have a variety of programs to help students, including: Education Advocacy, Check and Connect, and more. View our Programs »