Zero tolerance policies, dating back to the mid-1990’s originally targeted issues such as drugs and weapons. Over time, schools have broadened their list of conflicts, punishing more children. These policies in public schools enforce punishment in the form of expulsion or suspension on students in response to certain rule violations. The goal of these policies is to promote the safety of all students and staff, therefore if rules are broken, students are punished without exceptions. I oppose the zero tolerance policy in public schools because of the lack of leniency and rationalization. I believe schools should alter consequences based each individual situation. To support my argument, I will be discussing the issues, consequences and alternatives related to zero tolerance policies.
Concerns: Why zero tolerance is unjust.
The biggest issue with zero tolerance in schools is that these policies treat every individual equally regardless of their age, intent, history of behavior or specific needs. This is dangerous because children can be held responsible for crimes that they had no intention of committing. Everyone is punished severely if they make a mistake, despite not being at fault. For instance, a victim of bullying may be given the same punishment as the bully while trying to fight back in an act of self defense. Under a zero tolerance policy, both the bully and the victim will be punished because violence is impermissible according to the school rules. This shows that there really is no tolerance with violence. Children are punished regardless of the reason why they acted a certain way. Another fault with these policies is that they do not take age into account. In the past, students have been punished severely for behavior that is age appropriate. A young kindergartner is to be punished the same as a highschool student even though they may or may not have the understanding of why they are being punished. For example, in 2008 in Tennessee, 8 students were expelled in a week. The variety of offenses ranged from a kindergartner bringing a toy gun to school to a middle-school student threatening to shoot the principal. (Morin, 2011) Both the students, regardless of their motives and age, were expelled. Morin discusses that these policies do more harm than good and concludes by saying that though the intent for both students was very different, the punishment was the same. In my informed opinion this is unfair and both cases should have been treated differently. The kindergartner bought a toy to class, with no intention of hurting anyone. The school officials should have been more lenient with this student, versus the middle-school intent who verbally threatened to harm his principal.
Since zero tolerance policies seek to punish all students who violate school policies, children with special needs are no exception. Even though accommodations exist for these...