School District Implies Students Need Own Computers; State Law Says Otherwise

Saline’s fall back is to offer welfare-like assistance if requested

Saline Area Schools sent information to parents of incoming high school freshmen that they must provide computers for their children to be used in class. Such a requirement would be illegal under state law.

When questioned, Saline’s school superintendent told Michigan Capitol Confidential the district would provide computers to those students who don’t bring their own or participate in a school assistance program to buy their own.

The statewide news site MLive published a story May 2 with the headline: “Michigan high school will require freshmen to bring their own laptops.”

“Eventually,” the article said, “all high school students will be expected to bring their own devices for use in class.”

But the Michigan Department of Education said that it would be illegal for the district to mandate students bring in their own computer.

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“Districts cannot require parents, students or others to buy things like class supplies and computers,” MDE spokesman Bill DiSessa said in an email.

DiSessa provided what the state law, a Michigan Supreme Court ruling as well as a State Board of Education statement say on the subject.

Saline’s superintendent stated there was no mandate by the school.

“Anyone who doesn’t want to bring one, will be given one,” said Saline Superintendent Scot Graden in an email. “It's a needed tool, bring your own — or we will give you one to use (no qualifications needed).”

About 13 percent of the students in Saline are considered economically disadvantaged this school year, according to the state of Michigan.

The statement to parents from the school district read: “Beginning with the 2018/19 school year, it will be a District expectation for all 9th grade students to bring their own device (Chromebook / Laptop / Etc.) with a keyboard to school on a daily basis.”

The district told parents its goal was to “divert other funds to support classroom learning and technology infrastructure instead of consistently replacing devices year after year at the high school level.”

Under the heading of “FINANCIAL SUPPORT” the district said, “We are committed to helping all 9th graders obtain a device.”

Then it prompted parents in need of financial assistance to an online form to apply for financial assistance.

The form stated, “Please provide us with any information regarding the assistance that you need. Saline Area Schools will provide whatever level of support you need in order to get your child a Chromebook for the next 4 years at SHS. ...”

Michael Van Beek, the director of research at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said whether the parents can afford to purchase a computer is not relevant.

“My fear is that they are giving parents the impression that they are required to buy these devices when it is against the law to require parents to buy these devices,” Van Beek said. “They are implying to parents that they need to be in assistance to get support. [Governor] Rick Snyder’s kids could get a Chromebook provided by the district.”

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