Duly Noted

 Ending ‘school to prison pipeline’ was goal of Michigan anti-truancy summit

Kids who skip or are ousted from school for bad behavior  are at risk of dropping out and entering the “school to prison pipeline.” Efforts to find solutions  to school truancy  and keep kids from lives of crime  got a boost at last month’s “Michigan  Leadership Summit on School-Justice Partnerships: Keeping Kids in School and Out of the  Justice System.” 

The September 19-20 summit focused on  ways to keep young people in school. 
 
Governor Rick Snyder, in a message to the participants, said “When we increase school  attendance, when we lower truancy and absenteeism, and when we see fewer kids on the street, it  improves the quality of life for all of us. We will see fewer adults behind bars, fewer people in  need of public assistance, and a safer, better educated, and more prosperous Michigan as a  result.” 

“Anyone who works in the juvenile justice system knows that kids who are suspended or  expelled are much more likely to drop out altogether,” said Midland Probate Judge Dorene S.  Allen, Who also served as Chair of the Summit. “And when kids drop out of school, the likelihood that they’ll become involved in some kind of criminal activity increases dramatically.  In fact, this phenomenon is so common, it’s come to be known as the ‘school to prison pipeline.’ 

“The statistics are chilling: of Michigan prisoners, 49 percent do not have a high school degree or  GED.” 

The two-day summit, convened in Ann Arbor,  involved a wide array of  experts on juvenile justice and truancy: juvenile judges, intermediate school district  superintendents, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and community mental health workers.  Seventy-three county teams heard from national and state speakers, including Michigan Supreme Court Justice Mary Beth Kelly, Department of Human Services  Director
Maura Corrigan, and Department of Education Superintendent Mike Flanagan. Also  attending was Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bridget M. McCormack. 

Allen said that school “Zero Tolerance” policies, which mandate suspending or expelling  students, often have unintended consequences. “When children are expelled or suspended, they  disproportionately end up in the criminal justice system,” the judge said. 
 
The 73 county teams worked on their own solutions. Some county teams had as many as 10 members in attendance.

Michigan is the first state to hold a statewide summit on truancy issues. For more information, contact  SBurdick@co.
midland.mi.us.