This website contains suggestions for administrators and teachers interested in implementing alternatives to zero-tolerance policies. This report highlights three school districts — Denver, Chicago and Palm Beach County — that have zero-tolerance policies and practices, but where community members are beginning to recognize and address negative impacts. In the 1990s, proponents of zero-tolerance discipline saw it as a solution to violence in schools. They also saw it as a means of ensuring impartial discipline by depriving faculty of their discretion. For example, Albert Shanker, then president of the American Federation of Teachers, explained in 1995: “The way to make sure that this happens fairly and not in a biased way is to say, look, we don`t care if you`re white, Hispanic or African American or if you`re a new immigrant or this or that. For this violation, this is exactly what happens. On the contrary, studies have shown that zero-tolerance measures can increase suspensions and exacerbate racial inequalities in discipline. They can also provide little benefit in terms of improving school climate. In a recent study, I found that in 2013, only seven states and 12 percent of school districts had disciplinary policies using the term “zero tolerance.” While nearly all states and about two-thirds of districts had policies that required exclusion for certain violations, these state laws and district policies applied overwhelmingly to serious violations, such as bringing a gun to school.
By the late 1980s, a handful of states had passed such laws for crimes such as drugs or theft. The passage of the federal Gun-Free Schools Act in 1994 led to the expansion of mandatory guidelines for the designation of firearms offenses to all states. A wider use of zero-tolerance approaches by schools for other crimes, such as tobacco and alcohol, soon followed. The zero-tolerance policy is important. In my opinion, however, it is important to look beyond zero tolerance. In general, almost half of suspensions are issued for less serious offences, such as defiance or disruption. Students are suspended for these violations, even though there is no zero tolerance requirement. This letter provides an overview of existing research on the implementation and impact of zero tolerance in schools; And it highlights rigorously evaluated, non-punitive alternatives to zero tolerance that have shown more promise for improving school safety and student outcomes. This guide provides an overview of violence prevention in schools and explains effective alternatives to zero tolerance and advice on how to implement alternative policies.
This report highlights research showing that zero-tolerance measures can negatively affect the relationship between education and juvenile justice and hinder the development of young people. The report concludes that the data raises questions about the effectiveness of zero-tolerance measures. This report aims to engage people in discussing the negative effects of zero-tolerance policies and propose alternative methods that have reduced violence in schools and improved the learning environment. It reviews the different effects on students of color; the growing role of law enforcement in schools; gives examples of the school-prison pipeline in Denver, Chicago and Palm Beach; and presents the first solutions. This focus on serious violations of laws and guidelines contrasts with many media representations of zero tolerance. Based on my research, media portrayals of zero tolerance tend to focus on minor infractions. For example, the term “zero tolerance” has been used by the media to refer to situations where students have been suspended for minor infractions, such as: not wearing a student card, but only after multiple violations of the rule. These kinds of broad definitions could lead people to join the reform of school discipline. However, they also obscure the cards when it comes to understanding the scope of the current zero-tolerance policy and efforts to reform certain school practices.
This article shares the high national rates of suspension and expulsion, especially for students of color. It cites data from the National Centre for Education Statistics (NCES) showing that the vast majority of suspensions and exclusions are due to non-criminal offences, such as being late for class, talking to a teacher or breaking the dress code. It also mentions a major movement against unproven, costly and harmful zero-tolerance policies at the end of the school-prison pipeline. If everyone were clear about what zero tolerance is and what is not, it might lead to more productive discussions about how to reform school discipline and improve outcomes for students. * * * * * Zero tolerance refers to school disciplinary policies and practices that prescribe predetermined, usually severe, punitive and exclusive consequences (e.g., suspension and expulsion from school), in response to certain types of student misconduct – regardless of the context or justification for the behaviour. The term originated during the Reagan era, when the Federal Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was enacted in response to the war on drugs. The Act introduced new mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders, transforming a rehabilitation system into a criminal justice system. Congress passed the Unarmed Schools Act of 1994, which requires states to ban students who bring firearms into schools.
Although it was originally conceived as a response to serious crimes (p. e.g., selling drugs or participating in gang fights on school grounds) to ensure the safety and health of schools, the zero-tolerance policy has been widely implemented in recent years to include minor offences (e.g., talking to school staff, bringing over-the-counter or prescription medications onto school grounds without a medical certificate). and arrive at school without uniform) (NEA, 2008). Like the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, zero-tolerance guidelines for schools generally do not provide rehabilitation or support services to help students change their behavior in a positive way. Research has shown that zero-tolerance measures can have adverse effects on individuals, may result in higher rates of exclusionary discipline, and are not associated with improved school safety (APA, 2008). So it`s important to better understand zero tolerance, as schools across the country are once again grappling with the right way to manage discipline. Below, I explain some basic facts about zero-tolerance policies and their prevalence in U.S. schools. This presentation explains the similar origins and mutual reinforcement between (the pressure of) high-stakes tests and (over-reliance on) zero-tolerance policies whereby schools suspend or exclude students who are less engaged or disruptive and/or who are expected to score below academic assessments.
The presentation also proposes possible solutions (for example, those advocating positive reform of school discipline should push for reform of high-stakes tests and vice versa). This letter reviews the literature on the implementation and impact of zero-tolerance policies in schools and presents evaluated alternative policies that have improved student outcomes and school safety. This report draws on research and students` own stories to show that zero tolerance does not lead to safer schools or better academic outcomes and harms student-teacher relationships.