Senate approves Runestad bill letting school districts decide on graduation ceremonies

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday passed, with bipartisan support, legislation sponsored by Sen. Jim Runestad that would give local school districts the freedom to determine their own graduation ceremonies.

Senate Bill 335 would exempt graduation ceremonies from Department of Health and Human Services orders that would limit graduation commencement ceremonies in 2021.

“Michigan school districts have taken this virus seriously. They have followed safety protocols all year. Safety has been their top priority, and they can be trusted to make these decisions,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “This class of seniors has lost some of the best times of their life, through no fault of their own. The least we can do is let them have a memorable time with their friends and families. Graduation is an important milestone in the lives of our kids, and they deserve this moment.”

As of May 4, Michigan has administered more than 7 million vaccines, 39% percent of residents have been fully vaccinated, and more than half of the eligible population has received at least one dose. Bridge Magazine reported that COVID-19 cases are “rapidly declining in Michigan, reaching their lowest point in six weeks on Monday.”

“School districts are scrambling to plan an event that can make parents, teachers and students proud, while still keeping those families safe,” Runestad said. “Schools need less guidance and more trust from the department and the governor. After another month of vaccines, local districts will be able to hold a safe ceremony that our students will remember for the rest of their lives.

“School districts and their families should be making their own decisions on graduation ceremonies. They should not be receiving confusing, one-size-fits-all rules coming down from Lansing. Our students have missed enough already. We can’t give them back everything they have missed, but we can give them this one thing.

“Giving them this — a simple, safe, and memorable graduation — would let them end high school on a high note.”

SB 335 now heads to the Michigan House of Representatives.

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