Zero Tolerance

New Report on Zero Tolerance: Stop Expelling Kids for Ridiculous Nonsense

|

Stop arresting us

Opposition to "zero tolerance" school disciplinary policies continues to grow. A comprehensive new report urges schools to stop kicking students out of class and arresting them for committing trivial offenses.

The 400-page School Discipline Consensus Report was published by the Council of State Governments Justice Center. The U.S. Department of Justice paid for roughly half the project's $2 million cost.

Chief among the report's many recommendations is scaling back the incessant suspensions and expulsions handed down by school administrators over minor and even accidental rule infractions:

Research and data on school discipline practices are clear: millions of students are being removed from their classrooms each year, mostly in middle and high schools, and overwhelmingly for minor misconduct. When suspended, these students are at a significantly higher risk of falling behind academically, dropping out of school, and coming into contact with the juvenile justice system. A disproportionately large percentage of disciplined students are youth of color, students with disabilities, and youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).

There is no question that when students commit serious offenses or pose a threat to school safety they may need to be removed from the campus or arrested. Such incidents, however, are relatively rare, and school typically remains the safest place a young person can be during the day. In schools with high rates of suspension for minor offenses, however, students and teachers often feel they are not safe or supported in their learning environment.

Zero tolerance policies arose during the '90s as part of a tough-on-crime approach to school violence, which was perceived to be increasing.

Nowadays, news stories about students ill-served by such policies pop up constantly. They include a student expelled and arrested for forgetting to take his fishing supplies out of his car before heading to school. Another suspended for a harmless science experiment. A third student was suspended for chewing a Pop-tart into the shape of a gun. Every day, students lose class time for committing slight offenses. Sometimes, these offenses involve the police, court proceedings, and even short jail stints.

But as the report points out, when schools involve law enforcement in routine and minor disciplinary actions, students feel like criminals. Exposing kids—especially at-risk kids—to the criminal justice system as a penalty for slipping up in school is a surefire way to ruin their futures, notes Pedro Noguera, a New York University education professor, in The Wall Street Journal:

"It's the most disadvantaged, most vulnerable kids who are being denied learning time in the guise of discipline," Mr. Noguera said, adding that some schools suspend students for truancy. "These are the kids who don't like to be in school anyway, and you're sending them home to watch television?"

A groundswell of dissatisfaction with zero tolerance policies has prompted legislators in several states to instruct school districts to abandon them. This effort has largely been bipartisan, and even President Obama's Department of Justice has advised schools to move away from zero tolerance.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

22 responses to “New Report on Zero Tolerance: Stop Expelling Kids for Ridiculous Nonsense

  1. We needed a $2 million study to tell this. Ah it’s good to suck on the government teat. I’m sure somebody’s suggesting further study as we speak.

    1. Actually, it’s cheap at the price. If a study costs $2mil then it encourages people to pay attention to the blindingly obvious.

  2. Every day, students lose class time for committing slight offenses. Sometimes, these offenses involve the police, court proceedings, and even short jail stints.

    Can we write about this next time remembering that “losing class time” also means “being temporarily released from prison,” even if that might mean in some cases getting sent to a different one instead?

    1. Sign I am a terrible person?

      This morning on the radio there was a 12 year old boy in remission with leukemia. He has had it for awhile and I was starting to get choked up hearing him tell his story…

      …until he said, “I missed kindergarten and first grade. No child should have to go through that.”

      Huh? You stupid kid, you’re very unlucky with the leukemia, but being free from school means you lucked out.

  3. millions of students are being removed from their classrooms each year, mostly in middle and high schools, and overwhelmingly for minor misconduct.

    “Millions”? How about citing a percentage?

    A disproportionately large percentage of disciplined students are youth of color, students with disabilities, and youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).

    With all due respect, “disproportionately” is probably not the best word to use here. Is it possible that a relatively large percentage of, um, troubled students are youth of color, students with disabilities, and youth who identify as LGBT — and that they are “proportionately disciplined”?

    1. “Disproportionately” seems like the right word to use here. . . if LGBT kids are 0.02% of the population, but are 12% of the kids facing “discipline,” then it’s disproportionate.

      I’m glad I don’t have any kids in school – because the only thing I have Zero Tolerance for is. . . Zero Tolerance.

  4. Rules are the excuses humans use to not have to think, or to use their actual judgement. If they don’t have to think or use their judgement, they’re no longer (in their minds) responsible for the outcome.

    Many people hate personal responsibility, and avoid it at all costs. Zero Tolerance is one of the more effective ways they’ve come up with for doing that. Don’t think they will just give it up.

    1. I have looked at the words you wrote, and rather than dwell on their implications i will assume you say these things because you are RACIST.

      speaking of which = !#()$ ‘Merkin last night was a doozy

      that guy really needs to get out more. Here we have millions of progs calling ‘tea partiers’ racist for simply thinking the national debt is too high – and here we have people like him openly calling for an Nationalist Ethnic Purge of the inferior-races in the context of advocating national healthcare.

      I mean, you can’t make that shit up.

    2. Well, no. A $2,000,000 study and the circulating stories will convince people that Zero Tolerance needs eliminating. And so it will be.

      Then the educrats will invent a similar program with a different name. Rinse, repeat.

      It isn’t the policy that needs replacing, it’s the people.

      1. But to replace people, you must eliminate people. Then they call you a criminal.

  5. A third student was suspended for chewing a Pop-tart

    Ahem, it was not a Pop-Tart, but a breakfast pastry. Big difference per the school’s lawyer.

    1. Ahem, it was not a Pop-Tart

      I heard it was a Kleenex he found on the Xerox machine.

  6. I say, the more time the kids are out of school, the better. With internet access, they are more than capable of completing their studies online in an independent fashion. Hell, that’s how I learned for a lot of my classes in college. Class was just something I went to for attendance purposes.

  7. but how will they grow up to respect authority if we start showing judgment and rational thought?

    /edu-derp

  8. when schools involve law enforcement in routine and minor disciplinary actions, students feel like criminals.

    Feature’s aren’t bugs!

  9. School “reforms” come in waves – every so often the govt does an outraged report denouncing the previous reform and calling for its replacement with a new one. Then they put in the new reform and it is just as bad, and later they do *another* report denouncing the reform and proposing a new one, etc.

    So now the problem is kids being punished for pointing their fingers and saying “bang.” So I predict the system uses the outrage over zero tolerance to replace it with a policy of “extreme tolerance,” where if a student slashes another student with a knife he gets a visit to the principal’s office, and a weary administrator saying “how many times do I have to tell you not to stab people – now go back to class and behave yourself! I might even have suspended you if it wouldn’t mess up the statistics of ‘minority groups getting suspended’ and prompting an emergency evaluation from the Diversity Team.”

    1. It’s those damned pendulums! So hard to get them centered. Well, for bureaucrats, it is.

  10. The solution is simple–when your child is charged with something stupid, make an appointment to see the principal, then walk into his office and beat the living shit out of him.

    Then remind him that he’s just as guilty as you for engaging in violence, and that he has knives (Weapons) in the teachers’ lounge.

    If he’ll forget the whole matter, you will, too.

    1. I like the way you think.

      That’s *exactly* what would happen if I had a kid busted for something stupid like eating a toaster pastry. . .

  11. If my school had had as intrusive a police presence then as it probably does now, I would have taken advantage of it by bringing charges against school officials for all these petty, unfair, and BS rules.

    Neither a school nor any other venue can properly impose rules as a condition of being there unless the attendee can legally say, “Fine. I’ll go somewhere else.”

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.