For a long time it was thought that there is only one way to discipline students. But recently a new method has arisen and is becoming ever more popular. It is restorative justice. This method involves restorative practises that are meant to teach long term lessons while it’s opposite, zero-tolerance, is more of a short term solution. Zero-tolerance is punitive punishment for unruly behaviour that often consists of detention, suspension and expulsion. There are mixed views on which of these methods are better to use on students. This paper will analyse both methods and provide the public opinion as well as which method is better, based on the research.
Zero-tolerance is defined as the refusal to accept antisocial behaviour, typically by strict application of the law. The punishment for said behaviours is detention, suspension and expulsion. Zero-tolerance is meant to be used as a last resort by teachers and administrators but often ends up being used for minor offenses. Major offenses are: bringing a gun to school and assaulting a teacher or another student. Minor offenses include: being out of uniform, bringing a cell phone to class or using profanity or any kind of offensive language. It is often the case that those who are being persecuted fall under a certain demographic. These students are generally Latino or African American. According to an article by Graham in the “2008-09 school year, black students had 35 suspensions per 100 students; Latino students, 23 per 100; white students, 14 per 100; and Asian students, 5 per 100” (Graham). In “Proactive Discipline” the authors document that black male students are overrepresented in suspension and are punished for more subjective offenses, such as disrespect, than their white peers (Sharkey and Fenning).
There is a philosophy behind the zero-tolerance policy, “it is the presumption that strong enforcement can act as deterrent to other potentially disruptive students” (Skiba). This has to do with the “broken window” theory. In the theory it is said that the community should react to every little act of misconduct with brute force in order to get the message across. In the United States there have been thousands of reports that show that punishments are off the scale (Skiba). News reports document reports of students bringing knives to cut chicken in a lunch box, pointing a drawn gun at another student and the always present issue of weapon-like props as parts of Halloween costumes. These students have suffered expulsion and suspension for these seemingly harmless actions. The use of zero-tolerance has become increasingly popular in schools all over the country. In Chicago, IL since its implementation in 1995, the number of expulsions has risen from 81 to 1,000 three years later (Skiba).
The effects of zero-tolerance are as follows: schools with higher suspension and expulsion rates have lower test scores, the earlier the student gets a suspension the...