Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
In Michigan, it’s already illegal for employees of public school districts to dispense or distribute a “family planning drug or device” or make “referrals for abortions.” Pursuant to current state law, a Michigan public school district in which an employee does either of these things “shall forfeit 5% of its total state aid appropriation.” Now, the Michigan House of Representatives is looking to take things even further.
Earlier today, the House passed HB 5291 (Substitute H-1), the 2016-2017 omnibus appropriations bill for school aid, higher education, and community colleges, by a vote of 72-36. Among other things, the legislation would require all Michigan school districts and intermediate school districts to adopt a disciplinary policy for any teacher, board member, or any other employee who distributes a “family planning drug or device,” “refers a pupil for an abortion,” or “assists a pupil in obtaining an abortion.” Rather than penalizing the district, as is done under the current law, the proposed amendment would require the board of education to directly punish the individual teacher or employee with “a financial penalty . . . that is equivalent to not less than 3% of that individual’s annual compensation,” or in the case of employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement, a “penalty or penalties, which may include salary reduction, forfeiture of compensated leave time, a fine, or other means as determined by collective bargaining.” The legislation would also require school districts and intermediate school districts to enact policies to punish volunteers and contractors who distribute family planning devices or advocate abortions.
Talk about a solution in search of a problem! How many public school teachers, employees, contractors, and volunteers are out there pushing birth-control drugs and recommending abortions? Is this actually a widespread problem? My friend who works as a high school counselor in a large, southeast Michigan school district informed me that she has “never been in a position to refer a student to an abortion clinic.” If she hasn’t, who has? I’d really like to know where all these law-breaking, abortion-recommending educators are hanging out, especially since nobody seems to have ever encountered one.
And what about the time and resources that local school boards will be required to expend drafting these compulsory anti-family-planning discipline policies? I thought Republicans were in favor of local control and opposed to unfunded mandates. Hmm, guess not.
That leads me to one other point: If anyone at a public school should be distributing family planning drugs or devices, it should be the school nurse, right? However, Michigan has fewer school nurses per pupil than any other state. Indeed, as this Michigan Department of Education fact sheet indicates, over half of Michigan’s public schools have no school nurses or nursing services at all.
I leave you with a final thought: To date, Michigan’s legislators have enacted no law that would help to prevent a future Flint-level drinking water crisis by requiring the replacement of lead pipes and fixtures. Nevertheless, they seem to have plenty of time to think up new ways to appear tough on teachers and public school employees. With all this pandering to the anti-teacher and anti-family-planning crowds, but so little focus on the critical issues that actually affect Michigan, you really have to wonder about their priorities.