Over the past several years, many schools and school districts have developed so-called zero tolerance policies for a variety of offenses that kids and teens may commit. Some zero tolerance policies are understandable and arguably justified. For example, we live in an era in which children do not necessarily have good reason to feel safe at school. So, a zero tolerance policy connected to the offense of bringing a gun to school makes perfect sense from a public safety standpoint.
However, other juvenile offenses affected by zero tolerance policies are arguably overkill. According to the New York Times, teens and kids have not only been given detention but have been suspended and sometimes arrested for minor offenses including shoving matches and cursing on school grounds.
When a child or teen is arrested on any charge, the experience may be traumatic and may have a dramatic impact on that young person’s future. This kind of bold response to minor infractions may keep kids from getting into the colleges that they have otherwise earned the right to attend. It may also keep kids from eventually securing housing and employment.
As study after study has confirmed that most zero tolerance policies do little but place students at risk for long-term academic and social problems, schools and school districts are beginning to rethink these harsh policies. If you live in a school district where the zero tolerance policies exceed what is reasonable to keep kids safe, do not hesitate to show up at your district’s next school board meeting and raise your voice for change. Because reform in regards to this issue is sorely needed for the benefit of our nation’s youth.
Source: New York Times, “Zero Tolerance, Reconsidered,” Jan. 5, 2014