Zero Tolerance Policies

Many schools across the country have adopted zero tolerance policies when it comes to weapons on campus, drugs on campus, knives on campus, fighting on campus, or bullying on campus.

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Are these policies working? A recent article in the New York Times says “no”, these policies are not working.

Zero tolerance policies mean that students are either suspended or expelled for infractions. These policies tend to disproportionally affect black, Latino, and mentally disabled students. Furthermore, sending a student home from school does not necessarily imply that the student will go home or stay home — many students simply spend the school-free time on the streets, unsupervised, engaging in unlawful or destructive behavior. In fact, the New York Times article shows links between a rise in juvenile crime rate and suspension/expulsion rate. When suspension/expulsion rates are lowered, so are juvenile crime rates.

In terms of bullying, there is some evidence that a zero tolerance policy leads to a decrease in reporting of bullying incidents since reporting will most likely lead to a suspension. Suspension of a bully may remove the student from the situation, but it does not address the underlying issue of bullying.

There are strategies schools can take to address bullying that have proven to be more effective than a simple zero tolerance suspension policy. We’ve written a white paper on bullying where you can read about this in more depth.

At Invictus Consulting we are not opposed to zero tolerance policies in schools; we just want to make sure that school administrators have explored the options available to them.