Zero-tolerance policies help, push to end them continues

On Jan. 8, the Obama administration urged our nation to drop zero-tolerance policies implemented in schools. This announcement marked a new dawn in the education of our nation's education.

Zero-tolerance policies in schools mean that there is no tolerance for those who bring drugs, alcohol, weapons or violence to school.

The Obama administration encouraged schools to train teachers on how to discipline kids without the brutal force of police and security, often used in zero-tolerance policy schools. This move helps facilitate the guidance of students rather than pushing them onto a path that begs disaster.

The push to stop zero-tolerance enforcement comes from parents, faculty and students fearing that many schools too quickly give out punishments such as expulsion or suspensions when a student does something wrong.

Often, police are involved in incidents where a student is using violence or drugs on school grounds, leading to a criminal record as an adolescent.

In a Texas study reported by The New York Times, “Nearly 6 of 10 public school students were suspended or expelled at least once in the middle school or high school years. It also found that black students had a 31 percent higher likelihood of a school discretionary discipline action compared with white and Hispanic students.”

Research shows that expulsions and suspensions do virtually nothing to make students change their behavior. Being kicked out of class certainly doesn’t help a student stay on track to graduate. If anything, being suspended or expelled will lead a student down a path to dropping out entirely or having a dim future because they were failed by a school system that should be designed to help them.

When kids act out in schools it is because something else is going on with their lives. From being abused at home or having to support a family on top of school, there is usually a motive to acting out in school. When a student is expelled or suspended because of a zero-tolerance policy, it hurts students instead of helping them because they are given the label as a “troublemaker" or "delinquent."

While many agree that it is important to have safe schools with no violence or drugs, there are better things one can do with troubled students then expelling them because of a zero-tolerance policy.

The best way to ensure more students graduate and that there are less disruptions in schools is to implement more guidance for those troubled students. Programs for troubled students might make a difference in the fight to secure these students life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Instead of reverting to expulsions and suspensions, there should be programs created to help students work through their problems, and they should be given more guidance in school.

If students knew that there was somewhere they could go to receive help or talk to someone who would listen, they would not feel the need to act out in school.


Reach the columnist at or follow her on Twitter @kassmcdonald

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