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									Zero Tolerance



Zero Tolerance Kirsti Kimble, Sherie Love, Belinda McGuire, Jacklyn Roberts, EDA 532 Grand Canyon University January 31, 2008

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Abstract Zero Tolerance is a controversial issue that administrators must understand and implement in their school. By observing various scenarios pertaining to the Zero Tolerance law, administrators can promote an action plan to abide by the laws while not hindering a student‟s academic success. This action plan must consider the law and factors involved with each situation. While expulsion is a necessary component of the law, repercussions and ethical implications of expulsion should be considered. Factors such as the student‟s options after the expulsion and what the expulsion policy says to the community should be considered in depth.

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Zero Tolerance The violence in today‟s schools has turned into brutal proportions. If this cruel violence is allowed to go unchecked, it will permeate the educational environment by diminishing the overall chances of a greater education for the student. By embracing the concept of zero tolerance to fit a community and its school will help to provide a better educational environment, thus creating an opportunity to achieve better academic performance. (Johnson, 1999). From a students‟ perspective, zero tolerance, as enforced in many schools today, is a policy that punishes the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. (Starr, 2002). Zero tolerance is an ineffective disciplinary means in school environments. It treats every offense the same no matter who commits it and when it is committed. All are equal. In the case of the “bad kids”, zero tolerance at first glance seems like it would be an effective policy. In realty, it will not hinder bad behavior in schools. The outcome would look more like students spending time plotting their schemes with a focus on not getting caught. Zero tolerance could also lead to more bullying and scapegoating because stakes are high. Wouldn‟t everyone love to blame their mistakes on someone else? In a zero tolerance system this happens all of the time. The outcome is more time and energy from the staff and principals to uncover the reality of the situation. In truthfulness, mistakes will be made and the wrong kid will take the fall every now and then. The high stakes of zero tolerance have led to time consuming expensive outcomes. In the Philadelphia City School District, court cases have resulted from zero tolerance policies. Interestingly, “by a three to two vote, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court last week ruled „Act 88‟, the Pennsylvania law barring Philadelphia adjudicated delinquents from returning to regular

Zero Tolerance public schools violates the due process clause of the Constitution.”(Philadelphia Public Record, 2005).


It is true that school sometimes violate their own policies just to get parents off of their backs. “Sometimes, it isn‟t enough to just be right. We need to be “right on” in our decisions about the lives of our students.”(Risher, 2003) Under recent zero tolerance initiatives, trivial forms of student misconduct that were once handled informally by teachers and school administrators are now more likely to result in police arrest and referral to juveniles or adult court. Since the mid 1990‟s, a growing number of schools have adopted zero tolerance policies under which students receive predetermined penalties for any offense, no matter how minor. Students have been expelled or suspended from school for sharing Midol, and Certs tablets, and for bringing nail clippers or scissors to school. (Johnson, 1999). There is no credible evidence that zero tolerance measures improve classroom management or the behavior of students. Such measures are not only ineffectual but also appear to have a negative impact on children of color. Research indicates that Black children are more likely than white children to be expelled or suspended from school under zero tolerance. (CQ Researcher, 2000). While it is true that America needed to take strong action in the disturbing wake of the Columbine shootings, No Tolerance Laws have deemed to be controversial in whether such extreme consequences for every student regardless of the extent of the crime are necessary. In a public middle school in Birmingham, Alabama Zero Tolerance laws are abided by regularly by school officials. Actions taken in correlation with these laws have both prevented violence and enabled controversy and disarray in the school.

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The Zero Tolerance law has affected Baylor Middle School in numerous ways over the past decade. With a tougher discipline system, expulsions increased in the school. Students were more likely to be expelled from school in congruence with the regulations. While school violence declined, some students were sent home for petty crimes such as bringing a nail file to school. These students were expelled for crimes that most would seem unworthy of two weeks of expulsion. These students were very discouraged by their punishment and felt the school system was unfair, resulting in poor behavior and declining grades. These issues seem to abound not only at this school, but schools across America. Each scenario related to Zero Tolerance in schools seems to be unique. In the Rocket Scientist Scenario (March 1999) the administrator needed to have a conference with the student and find out his intent. Zero Tolerance policy allows for interpretation by the administrator or administrative committee. Each offense is situational and should be analyzed by the administrative committee at the school. The student did not receive a chance to explain himself. According to the law of due process, the boy should have had the right to defend himself before such a harsh punishment was given to him. After a conference with the student and teachers, the administrative committee should decide on a punishment more fitting for the situation. In the Bang Bang, You‟re Dead Scenario, the administrator should have considered all factors. Factors in this case that needed to be analyzed was the age of the children and the intent. If the student was in elementary school, he or she probably looked at the gun as a toy to play with and not as a weapon. If the students were older, they would know better, but would expulsion really be necessary? In this case, the administrator or committee should have met with the students and their parents and

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discussed the regulations regarding Zero Tolerance. After analyzing the information gathered, the punishment given should fit the crime committed. When dealing with the situations discussed in the reading, a plan of action should be created and implemented in each situation that concerns the Zero Tolerance policy. Each scenario is different making it difficult to have a cookie cutter consequence for each offense. Also, in these controversial decisions, it is important to have a committee who can help the administrator put the evidence together and decide what punishment should be given to the student. When an incident occurs these following steps should be taken. First of all the administrator should have a conference with the students and determine their intent. After talking with the students and gathering evidence, a Zero Tolerance committee should meet to analyze the situation and discuss a punishment that is appropriate for the crime. While Zero Tolerance was presented with the best of intentions of preventing school violence, administrators should not allow the act to hinder an individual‟s success in school. Punishment should be given to fit the crime committed by the student. Several pros and cons avail in each decision an administrator makes. The following action plan would allow for students to have somewhat of a mini trial in school before their punishment is decided on. This action would allow students to receive a punishment that fits the crime they have committed, hopefully lessening the discouragement of students who are unfairly reprimanded for a crime. This would also allow students to see school as a place of justice and fairness. A negative consequence that might occur would be the risk of the district writing the school up for not obeying the Zero Tolerance Laws in their school. Parents and the community might question the

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actions of the committee. Zero Tolerance is destined to create controversy due to the nature of the law, but administrators can prevent chaos by forming committees where evidenced is examined and the punishment matches the crime committed.

Zero Tolerance


References Essex, N.L. (2005). School Law and the Public Schools (3rd ed.) New York: Pearson A and B.

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