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October 15, 2021
LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is officially launching the Department of Attorney General Restorative Practices Initiative, reaffirming her commitment to equity in the classroom. This initiative continues the Attorney General's efforts with the National Education Association (NEA) and the Michigan Education Association (MEA).
In addition to launching the initiative, the week was marked by a meeting with Michigan educators, members from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and Department of Justice (DOJ) Thursday afternoon.
"As we reiterated to DOE and DOJ during our meeting, restorative practices improve school environments and reduce exclusionary discipline, keeping students in the classroom and ready to learn." Nessel said. "It is great to see DOE and DOJ welcoming our feedback and learning about the important work Michigan educators are doing. The more schools embrace restorative practices and positive school environments, the less disparities we will see in school discipline, meaning less kids shuffled through the school-to-prison-pipeline."
"Restorative practices are successful for our students, but they require a culture shift from 'punish and remove' to 'listen and love,'" MEA President Paula Herbart said, who participated in Thursday's meeting. "Students and educators are struggling equally during these unprecedented times, which is why it's critical for all stakeholders to be fully trained and invested in tactics to meet social, emotional and academic needs. We appreciate Attorney General Nessel and the representatives of DOE and DOJ hearing directly from front-line educators about their passion for this work and what's needed to be successful in holistically supporting all Michigan students."
As part of this ongoing effort, in May, Nessel led a coalition of 23 attorneys general, which urged DOE and DOJ to reissue a guidance package previously withdrawn in 2018. The guidance addressed racial disparities in school discipline. The letter also asked that the reissued guidance be expanded to address the disparate use of discipline against students based on their sex, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Following submission of the letter, Nessel and NEA President Becky Pringle jointly penned an op-ed making clear ignoring disparities inflicted on youth, caused by the overuse of harsh discipline practices in our schools, does not alleviate the adverse life-long impacts of excessive exclusionary discipline.
In June, DOE issued a Request for Information seeking information to help DOE determine what policy guidance or related resources it should issue to assist schools improve school climate and safety and ensure the nondiscriminatory administration of school discipline. Nessel led a second coalition of attorneys general in responding to DOE's request in July.
As part of Thursday's meeting - which was prompted by Nessel's advocacy before the two departments - DOE and DOJ members heard about Lincoln Park Public Schools' (LPPS) Resilient Schools Project from LPPS Superintendent Terry Dangerfield and LPPS educators. Nessel joined Herbart and Pringle during a visit to the district last month to see the program's positive impact highlighted at Raupp Elementary School.
The program is a shining example of restorative practice programs that reinforce equitable learning opportunities for students, and Nessel hopes to learn about similar successes across Michigan.
If you are a school official and have a success story, please complete the form now available through the Restorative Practices Initiative webpage.