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Zero Tolerance Policies In American Schools

1172 words - 5 pages

In all grades of education, from kindergarten to college, there is a form of discipline known as a zero tolerance policy. While the exact wording is different from school to school, basically a zero tolerance policy means that a student is immediately suspended, asked to attend an alternative school, or expelled if they are suspected or caught doing certain things. These policies are in place to hopefully deter students from doing drugs or being violent, but the ethics behind them are questionable. Some research has shown that these policies may not even work, and other forms of discipline would be better suited to help students. The three main activities that result in the zero tolerance policy are being caught with drugs or alcohol, being caught with a weapon, and bullying.
Drugs and alcohol are a big problem everywhere, but school administrators and teachers want to make sure that students are able to reach their full potential and drug use would greatly hinder that. However, according to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey 39.9% of students have tried marijuana and 70.8% of students have drank alcohol (YRBSS 2011 National Overview). If schools were to expel every student because of drug or alcohol use, there would hardly be any students left. A booklet published by the Drug Policy Alliance has research that shows that zero tolerance policies do not deter drug and alcohol use. Drug and alcohol use continues to rise in schools, and many schools do not do anything to help combat it except for harsh disciplinary procedures. Most elementary schools have drug education programs, but the same type of education does not work well with teenagers. The Drug Policy Alliance advocates for a three step process to help students instead of punish them. These steps are better drug abuse education, intervention for students who are using drugs, and restorative consequences instead of suspension or expulsion. (Skager 6). These sorts of policies actually help students instead of punishing them, which is a great benefit to all students, schools, and communities. Zero tolerance policies can cause students to lose respect for teachers and all adults, and make them more likely to continue to use drugs and be involved in disruptive behavior (Mongan and Walker 234).
Another issue with zero tolerance policies is the immediate one year suspension for students who bring a weapon to school. This policy started with the Gun Free Schools Act of 1994 (Boccanfuso and Kuhfeld). The zero tolerance policy for weapons immediately punishes any and all students found to have a weapon in their possession. Many schools have also punished students for pretend weapons, such as a bubble gun, or an Eagle Scout who had a pocket knife in his possession (Newcomb)(Lott). There is a huge difference between a student having a pocket knife in his car or a gun in his hand, but zero policies are meant to punish all students the same at the discretion of a school official (Boccanfuso). The...

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