Bizarre and senseless tyranny can make kids unsettled, the American Psychological Association concludes, after its study of the effects of "zero tolerance" policies in schools that treat, for example, aspirin as punishable as cocaine, or a plastic knife as punishable as a gun. An excerpt from USA Today's account:
There are growing signs that zero-tolerance policies are steering more teens into the juvenile justice system, says Russell Skiba, an Indiana University educational psychologist. "Things that used to be handled by principals land kids in juvenile detention," he says. The report also mentions racial disparities; minorities are expelled more often than whites for comparable offenses.
Principals who want to be flexible "may be caught in a catch-22," says Richard Flanary of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. If school boards set rigid policies, principals who defy them risk losing their jobs. "Then they're bashed in the press for overreacting to kids' misbehavior."
And rightly so. The school boards have the power to end the catch-22; while it shouldn't have taken the conclusions of a bunch of egghead psychologists to show them how stupid and counterproductive such policies can be, I hope it helps toward that end.