2017-18 Education Laws To Be Aware Of

Bob Kefgen's picture

The 2017-18 school year is bringing a few new laws with it. You likely already have these changes well in hand, but it's not a bad idea to run down the list one more time and make sure you have all of your T's crossed and I's dotted. To that end, here is a brief review of all the various changes that are new for this school year (and one that isn't totally new, but that we are still getting a few questions about). Along with each issue, we've included links to resources and more information, just in case you need it.

Here's a clickable table of contents if you want to skip ahead:

Deep breath…here we go…

MPSERS

The only portion of this law you need to worry about for right now is the deadline for purchasing service credit (I promise we'll cover the other changes as their deadlines get closer). Until now, employees who are a part of either the MIP or Basic plans have been entitled to buy years of service credit that they can apply toward their retirement. The most recent round of MPSERS changes eliminates that option after September 30, 2017 at 5 p.m.

If you have already purchased service credit or have entered into a payment plan, this will not affect you. If you have not purchased service credit, but want to do so, you still have time. The Michigan Office of Retirement Services has put out a pretty comprehensive FAQ that should answer any and all questions you or your colleagues may have.

Note that this change only applies to MIP and Basic members, not Pension Plus (hybrid plan) folks. People in the Pension Plus system (those first employed after July 1, 2010) cannot buy years of service credit and have never been able to.

Zero Tolerance

The changes made to Michigan's student discipline laws during the 2016 lame duck session take effect beginning this school year. While widely referred to as the new zero tolerance laws, this title is something of a misnomer since the impact of the revisions is to effectively eliminate zero tolerance policies and force local districts to consider potentially mitigating factors before suspending or expelling students.

Here's a review of the major highlights of the new law:

  • The new laws require consideration of seven factors in EVERY case of suspension or expulsion EXCEPT FIREARMS.
  • Administrators can use the new factors as justification to not to suspend or expel a pupil, even for a "zero tolerance" offense, EXCEPT FIREARMS.
  • There is a rebuttable presumption that any suspension over 10 days is unjustified "unless the [district]…can demonstrate that it considered each of the factors."
  • Districts must consider using restorative practices as an alternative to or in addition to suspension.

These changes mean that districts should absolutely REVIEW and may need to UPDATE their student discipline policies and procedures and revise documents like discipline forms and student codes of conduct.

Fortunately, MASSP has a whole Zero Tolerance Resource Center (including a quick reference guide, sample forms, etc.) dedicated to this topic.

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Seclusion/Restraint

New statutory requirements that govern the use of emergency use of seclusion and restraint took effect August 1. The intended purpose of these changes was to provide a uniform policy that encourages the use of proactive and effective strategies to reduce the occurrence of challenging behaviors, eliminate the use of seclusion and restraint, and increase meaningful instructional time.

For most building administrators, incidents of emergency seclusion or emergency physical restraint are blessedly rare. Additionally, many of the more common types of situations that Principals face that could be construed as seclusion or restraint (e.g. breaking up fights, in-school suspension, isolate students during an investigation) are expressly exempt from these new regulations. Still, the new laws apply to ALL students, not just special education students and come with training requirements that apply to ALL school personnel who have regular contact with students.

Most Principals will not need to understand every nuance of the new laws. However, there are a few things you will want to make sure you check of your list going into this school year:

  • Review current IEPs and Behavior Intervention Plans to ensure compliance.
  • Make sure you've identified the "key personnel" in your building who will generally be available to respond to an emergency.
  • Ensure your "key personnel" have received the comprehensive training required by the new laws (emergency seclusion/restraint CANNOT be used until training complete). NOTE: for many principals, your building crisis response team may have this mostly covered already.
  • Provide awareness training to ALL staff who have regular contact with students (e.g. teachers, subs, parapros, cafeteria workers, etc.). MASSP has a free, MDE-approved online suite of awareness training resources for you to use to fulfill this requirement.

MASSP's Seclusion and Restraint Resource Center has lots of information if you need to dig into the specifics of the law, including our quick reference guide and links to MDE's model policy, MDE's recently released FAQ.

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CPR/AED Education

Beginning this school year, the state health education content standards for grades 7-12 now include instruction in the psychomotor skills of CPR and AED awareness. The practical effect of this change is that in order to offer health education that aligns with the state standards, districts must incorporate this material into their curriculum at some time during grades 7-12. MDE has released a brief memo outlining their interpretation of the new law and MASSP wrote an article shortly after the law was signed that breaks down the requirements in detail. Both offer more detailed resources if you need them.

Here are the highlights for Principals:

  • Your curriculum needs to include two specific components:
    1. training in the psychomotor skills of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (i.e. chest compressions)
    2. instruction about automated external defibrillators.
  • Districts must utilize a program of instruction BASED ON either of the programs developed by the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, or other nationally recognized, evidence-based guidelines (it doesn't have to actually be one of these programs, it just has to be based on it, which means you can build/modify you own program locally).

Based on the questions I get about this new law, here are some final quick points to keep in mind:

  • Your district only has to cover this material once during grades 7 to 12, not every year and not in every grade.
  • You don't have to ensure that every student receives this instruction, just that it is included in your curriculum (so don't worry about transfer students, etc.)
  • Students do not need to become certified in CPR.
  • The person delivering this content is not required to have any special training (unless you want your students to become certified).

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Holocaust/Genocide Education

First, this is not a new requirement. This took effect with the 2016-17 school year. Still, we included it here because it is still relatively new and we have been getting a few questions. The basics are pretty simple. A district is required to ensure that its "social studies curriculum for grades 8 to 12 includes age- and grade-appropriate instruction about genocide, including, but not limited to, the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide." That's it. Just make sure it's in your curriculum somewhere in grades 8 to 12. You can read the law for yourself if you don't believe me: MCL 380.1168(1).

I know it sounds too open ended and straightforward for state government. Fortunately, it just is (you're welcome). With that said, let me anticipate a few questions and offer answers:

  • Yes, you probably already did this even before the law. Michigan's Social Studies HSCEs (both the old ones and the proposed new ones) cover both of these topics. Click here for the current standards and here for the new ones. See standards 7.1.3 and 7.2.4.
  • You only have to cover it once, not every year and not in every grade.
  • No, you don't have to ensure that every student receives this instruction, just that it is included in your curriculum.
  • Yes, it is completely up to you to determine how to deliver this material. Beyond what is written in the state standards (referenced above) there is no specific curriculum, no required lesson plan, no requirement for a certain number of days or hours of time spent on this…you get the idea.

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