by Thomas J. Billitteri
Are zero-tolerance policies fair?
More than a decade after a string of deadly school shootings focused attention on student discipline, the search continues for effective methods to curb classroom misconduct. Zero-tolerance policies, widely adopted during the 1990s, have led to skyrocketing suspension and expulsion rates in many school districts, sparking criticism that get-tough conduct codes are ineffective at stopping misbehavior and harmful to the education process. Civil-rights and child-advocacy groups say such codes have led to too many cases of harsh punishment for relatively minor violations, sometimes sending youngsters out on the street where they get into worse trouble. Critics also charge that black students are far more likely to be punished for similar misconduct than whites under the zero-tolerance approach. Meanwhile, a provision in the federal No Child Left Behind law, which requires states to identify "persistently dangerous schools," is the subject of sharp debate as the law moves toward possible reauthorization this year.
- Have zero-tolerance policies made schools safer?
- Is racism responsible for high suspension rates among minorities?
- Should students have more legal rights in discipline cases?
Read the full report (requires subcription)