Zero Tolerance In Schools

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As the war on drugs broke out in the 1980s, many schools took the initiative to crack down harder on their students in an effort to maintain school order. Due to the harsher drug policies, schools initiated the zero-tolerance approach. Seen as highly controversial, many wonder how well the zero-tolerance policy works. While some advocate the need for a no-nonsense approach in the face of increasing school violence, evidence has shown that it is actually debilitating to students learning when schools use suspension and expulsion as a means to maintain control. Not to mention, that the zero-tolerance approach has raised numerous questions on the treatment of minorities, inconsistent application, and many other school issues. One way that schools…show more content…
The 1980 drug enforcement policies mandated severe punishment for any drug infraction. It was seen as a disciplinary approach in school districts across the country and eventually became a federal law in the Gun-Free Schools Act. Although the act only mandates a one-calendar-year expulsion for possession of a firearm on school property, many school districts have extended the application of zero tolerance for a range of other school misbehaviors. Because the extent of the usage of zero-tolerance is unclear and depends on the definition, a lot of students are disproportionately punished. Supporters of the zero-tolerance approach argue that because of the escalating school violence and disruption, the message provided by zero tolerance is needed to maintain school discipline. It is argued that the punishments of zero tolerance are ultimately fairer and will eliminate racial imbalance in school discipline. Most importantly, it is believed that by removing troublemakers from school premises will produce a school climate that is free from disruption for the other students, and that observation of school punishments will deter others from disruption and violence. However, evidence supports the idea that the zero-tolerance approach is a threat to individual liberties and fairness that’s posed by a one-size-fits-all model. Critics point out that suspension and expulsion remove students from the opportunity to learn, and that many of those removed by strict zero-tolerance policies do not pose serious threats to school safety, but are often good students with no prior history of disruption. Finally, they note that continued racial disparities in suspension and expulsion put students of color at disproportionate risk for contact with the juvenile justice system, creating what has been termed a school-to-prison

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