Advocates work to fix shortage of mental health professionals, social workers serving rural schools

K-12 MENTAL HEALTH: Michigan school districts face a shortage of social workers and other mental health professionals, and small rural districts have an even tougher time recruiting and retaining them. The Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency talks about the impact in that region. We also hear from the Michigan Association of School Boards, state Education Department, Michigan Association of School Social Workers and Michigan League for Public Policy. By Anish Topawila. FOR ALPENA, ALCONA, MONTMORENCY, BIG RAPIDS, CLARE, GLADWIN, CHEBOYGAN, CRAWFORD COUNTY, MIDLAND AND ALL POINTS.

Grand Valley Professor Annie Whitlock is president-elect of the Michigan Council for Social Studies.

Civics education should start in younger grades, educators say

CIVICS EDUCATION: Social studies teachers and civics educators say they want school administrators and the Legislature to focus more attention on civics education for elementary and middle school children. It’s especially important in light of the upcoming election. We talk to a Grand Valley State professor who is the president-elect of the Michigan Council for Social Studies and the director of the Michigan Center for Civic Education. By Anish Topiwala. FOR GREENVILLE, WKTV AND ALL POINTS.

Rep. John Fizgerald, D-Wyoming

Legislation would require state-funded defibrillators at high school athletic events

DEFIBRILLATORS: Pending legislation would require all public and charter schools to have cardiac emergency plans and all coaching staff to be trained to use computerized defibrillators called automated external defibrillators, or AEDs. A Detroit high school basketball player died of cardiac arrest. Sponsors include lawmakers from Detroit and Wyoming. Supporters include the Michigan High School Athletic Association, Detroit Lions, state Education Department and Michigan State Medical Society. For news and sports sections. By Sophia Ceru. FOR DETROIT, GREENVILLE, WKTV AND ALL POINTS.

State ramps up dental exams for kindergarteners 

DENTAL: For the 2024-25 school year, the Department of Health and Human Services plans to expand statewide a pilot program that gives free dental examinations to children entering kindergarten. The Whitmer administration proposes to spend $4 million next year, but advocates say that’s not enough. The Michigan Oral Health Coalition, Michigan Association for Local Public Health and Michigan Dental Association explain. Includes references to Petoskey, Detroit and Grand Traverse, Chippewa, Oakland, Ottawa, Marquette, Leelanau, Mason, Emmet and Cheboygan counties. By Theo Scheer. FOR PETOSKEY, DETROIT, LEELANAU, TRAVERSE CITY, CHEBOYGAN, SAULT STE. MARIE, LUDINGTON, HARBOR SPRINGS AND ALL POINTS.

Schools adapt to free meals for all students

SCHOOL MEALS: School districts are adapting to the mandate to offer free breakfasts and lunches to all students, regardless of income. The state is paying for the initiative. They say hungry students don’t learn well, and that students who can’t afford to pay for meals feel stigmatized. We talk to school lunch experts in Marquette, Oakland County and Traverse City. By Alex Walters. FOR TRAVERSE CITY, DETROIT, MARQUETTE, MICHIGAN FARM NEWS AND ALL POINTS.

MacDonald Middle School invests in restorative justice practices and reduces suspensions 

Restorative justice is not always widely used in a traditional classroom setting. However, MacDonald Middle School has seen significant improvements among its students since adopting this system. Restorative justice is an alternative to punishment and a more peaceful discipline approach used to repair harm that has been done, according to MacDonald Principal, Amy Martin. 

“Restorative justice looks at all parties involved and gives the opportunity for all parties in the conflict to have a voice and to be heard,” Martin said. “Then we have to come to an agreement on how to peacefully coexist in the same place.” 

Martin has been at MacDonald for nine years and said restorative practices were implemented at the school in 2000. She said the administration has encountered some system issues along the way. 

“We didn’t really have a balance between restorative practices and traditional consequences for students,” Martin said.

Restorative Justice is on The Rise in Michigan Schools

When it comes to school discipline in the United States, punishments such as detention, suspension and even expulsion are nothing new – but in recent years, proponents of restorative justice have become hopeful that for the most part, they may soon be left in the past. Restorative practices – which Michigan schools have been required to consider as disciplinary alternatives since the signing of Gov. Rick Snyder’s restorative justice law in 2016 – focus primarily on overall harm reduction, and encourage schools to consider the full context of a situation when deciding on disciplinary measures. “It’s an approach to addressing conflict and misconduct that focuses on healing the harm rather than punishment, and that values accountability over exclusion,” said MacDonald Middle School Assistant Principal John Atkinson, who spoke about his school’s use of restorative justice at an East Lansing School Board meeting on Jan 22. “Rather than relying on just punishment, restorative justice expects those who cause injuries to make things right.”

Source: MacDonal Middle School

However, when it comes to how these amends can be brought about, schools have found that there is no one right answer. “It looks different everywhere, and I think that’s because a lot of schools have been shifting more towards restorative practices in general,” said Adam Brandt, an assistant principal at Eaton Rapids Middle School.

Ericka Jackson is Wayne State University’s director of undergraduate admissions.

Admission guarantee for students with 3.0 GPA boosts applications to public universities

GUARANTEED ADMISSION: Ten of Michigan’s 15 public universities now admit any in-state student graduating high school with a 3.0 or higher GPA, a change intended to make the application process easier that is already credited with an increase in applications at some campuses. The Michigan Assured Admission Pact, or MAAP is part of an effort to raise enrollments. We see the impact at Oakland and Wayne State and hear from the Michigan Association of State Universities. Opting out of the program are U-M, MSU, Grand Valley, Western and Michigan Tech. By Owen McCarthy. FOR DETROIT, BIG RAPIDS, IRON MOUNTAIN, SAULT STE. MARIE, MIDLAND, GREENVILLE, BAY MILLS, ST. IGNACE, HOLLAND AND ALL POINTS.

Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, supports more state oversight of homeschooling.

Proposed homeschooling registration sparks protests

HOME SCHOOL SAFETY: A state Education Department proposal to require homeschooling parents to register their children is sparking protests. The department says the change is intended to protect the safety of those students, but homeschool advocates counter that it’s a ploy to funnel more state aid to public schools and an intrusion on family privacy. We hear from homeschool promoters, including two from Grand Traverse County, and lawmakers from Plymouth and Livonia. By Liz Nass. FOR TRAVERSE CITY, LEELANAU, DETROIT AND ALL POINTS.