Zero-Tolerance Policies Don’t Make Schools Safer

I would support zero-tolerance policies in schools only if they properly serve as a deterrent to an infectious spread of misdemeanour. 

A zero-tolerance policy in schools is a policy that punishes any infraction of a rule, regardless of accidental mistakes, ignorance, or extenuating circumstances. Common zero-tolerance policies concern possession or use of illicit drugs or weapons, stealing, use of verbal and physical abuse, examination malpractice, smoking, discrimination and harassment, derogatory remarks and disrespectful gestures. 

These policies are promoted in order to prevent drug abuse and many forms of violence in schools. 

What we know for a fact is that it is equally important for those policies to be supported with effective counselling and rehabilitation programmes for affected persons.

Below is an excerpt from Mark Phillips, a teacher and education journalist (on a myth busting journey) that sheds light on zero-tolerance policies in schools. He basically busted the myth that suggests that zero tolerance policies make schools safer. It would be useful for school administrators to embrace these ideologies.

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“This strikes me as one of the most colossally wrong-headed and destructive of the myths. Berliner and Glass describe numerous examples of this policy being implemented destructively, including one in which two students were suspended because one shared her inhaler with a friend who was having an asthma attack. Most importantly, there is no evidence that zero tolerance policies decrease school violence. To the contrary, the authors note that “suspensions and expulsions have far-reaching implications for a student’s academics and can set them up for failure in their personal lives.” Zero tolerance policies have resulted in school officials routing record numbers of students through the juvenile justice system, students who are then more likely to also end up in an adult prison later on. And, not surprisingly, all of the unintended effects associated with zero-tolerance policies in schools are multiplied for non-whites.

The authors also give examples of some schools that are learning from this research. As one example, after the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, teachers, parents, and administrators are focused on crisis preparedness and the politics of the gun debate, not on stricter policing of students.”

It is my hope that we can all learn from history and experience. For more busted myths, click Edutopia.

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