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Anti-Racism Advocates Say Michigan's Truancy Laws Need To Change

Sehvilla Mann

Michigan’s anti-truancy polices are backfiring, especially for students of color. That’s the message from activists in Kalamazoo who say they’re working with lawmakers on an overhaul.

Demetrias Wolverton is with the Kalamazoo YWCA, which held a "Stand Against Racism" press event and policy briefing Friday. Wolverton said the state’s idea of an excusable absence is too narrow. He said Michigan ends up pushing students out of school for reasons they can’t control, such as a family crisis.

“We serve women who are survivors of violence who are staying in our shelter and oftentimes, it is more safe for them to stay in our shelter, with security and with their children than to send them out into the world, where their assailant or perpetrator may use the child as a way to manipulate them back into an unhealthy situation,” he said.

Other students miss school because they are caring for their families.

Wolverton said the law disproportionately affects students of color. “Being able to add that lens of racial and gender equity is going to be able to say ‘Wait a minute, before we suspend this student for being absent, before we suspend this student for being truant, what are some other remedies and what are some other things that we can do?’” he added.

Wolverton said Democratic State Senator Sean McCann will propose a bill on truancy, but a timeline hasn’t been set.

Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in January 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. Before that she covered a variety of topics, including environmental issues, for Bloomington, Indiana NPR and PBS affiliates WFIU and WTIU. She’s also written and produced stories for the Pacifica Network and WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Sehvilla holds a B.A. in French from Earlham College and an M.A. in journalism from Indiana University.
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