Member Resources: Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the questions the AFT Michigan staff is most frequently asked by members. This is not a comprehensive list of all questions asked, but we have tried to include topics of interest to a large segment of the membership. In addition to this page of the web site we encourage you to check out the Member Handbook in the Member Resources section of this site. If you have a question you think might be of interest to many AFT Michigan members please e-mail it to the AFT Michigan Webmaster.
What are the requirements for reporting Abuse and Neglect?
Michigan's Child Protection Act (CPA) requires school personnel to report suspected abuse or neglect. "Abuse" is defined as harm or threatened harm to a child's health or welfare that occurs through physical or mental injury, sexual abuse or maltreatment. "Neglect" means harm or threatened harm to a child's health or welfare as a result of negligent treatment, including the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care or placing a child at an unreasonable risk to the child's health or welfare by failure to intervene to eliminate that risk. The law requires that a report be made to the appropriate agency within 24 hours of observing the suspected abuse or neglect.
School personnel are mandated to report observed or suspected abuse or neglect. Educators are required to notify their supervisors, and must also ensure that a report is made to the appropriate authorities. A teacher or paraprofessional telling the principal that they suspect abuse is not sufficient to satisfy the law. A report must be filed either by the teacher or paraprofessional, the principal, or a joint report. The reporting obligation is only satisfied if a report is actually made.
The CPA encourages the making of reports through a system of protection and penalties. An employee may not be disciplined for making a report. And a person making a report in good faith is immune from suit or prosecution for the act of making the report. But a child who is injured as a result of abuse or neglect may sue an employee who should have made a report, but failed to do so. The employee may also be prosecuted for a misdemeanor. Hence, the statute creates a powerful incentive to report whenever there is a reasonable basis to do so.
Is using physical force with my students ever allowable?
Corporal punishment, defined as the deliberate infliction of physical pain by hitting, paddling, spanking, slapping, or any other physical force used as a means of discipline, is absolutely prohibited by statute. MCL 380.1312. Violation of the statute can be grounds for discipline and civil liability for damages. However, the statute also expressly permits the use of reasonable physical force upon a pupil as necessary to maintain order and control in a school or school-related setting for the purpose of providing an environment conducive to safety and learning. Circumstances in which reasonable physical force may be used if necessary are:
Recognizing that it is sometimes difficult to judge the necessity for physical force or the reasonableness of the force used in the heat of the moment, the statute expressly provides that deference shall be given to an educator's reasonable good-faith judgment. In addition to the statutory guidelines, many school districts have their own policies on the use of force, which may be more restrictive than the statute. Failure to follow district policies and procedures may result in discipline.
Of course, the fact that reasonable force may be permitted in certain circumstances does not mean that it is always the best course of action. The use of physical force should only occur as a last resort in a drastic situation. If possible, get assistance from administrators or back up from other school personnel before acting. If you must use physical force against a student to protect or restrain, make sure that there are witnesses to the sequence of events. Obtain names and written statements from student and adult witnesses immediately following the incident. Don't use more force than is necessary and never use force to punish a student. Report incidents as soon as possible.
Am I covered under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
To be eligible you must have worked for an employer for 12 months, with at least 1250 hours worked, and the employer must have at least 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius.
If you are covered, FMLA provides for 12 workweeks of unpaid leave. Leave may be taken in blocks of less than a day for the birth or adoption of a child with the employer's consent; and without regard to employer's consent for medical necessity for self or family (spouse, child, or parent).
FMLA leave may be used for the birth and care of a newborn; placement of a child through adoption or foster care; care for immediate family member (spouse, child, parent) with a serious health condition involving inpatient care in a hospital or medical facility; or continuing treatment by a health care provider which includes a period of incapacity. If you use FMLA leave your health benefits are maintained, you must be returned to the same or equivalent job, and there is no loss of existing benefits.
Specifically for school employees: