Tag Archives: Zero Tolerance Policies

School districts looking at ‘zero tolerance’ policies

2 Dec

In 2010 Council of State Governments Justice Center wrote a policy brief, Zero Tolerance Policies:
What are zero tolerance policies?

• Zero tolerance policies, which began as a way to approach drug enforcement, were widely adopted by schools in the 1990s. They mandate certain punishments for infractions regardless of the circumstances.1
• The most common reason for suspensions are fights, yet the majority of infractions are nonviolent, including:
•• Abusive language;
•• Attendance issues, such as tardiness;
•• Disobedience or disrespect; and
•• General classroom disruptions.2
Research is beginning to show there may be disparities in how zero tolerance policies are applied.
• Suspensions for students in kindergarten through the 12th grade have at least doubled since the 1970s for minority students.3
• Black students are more than three times more likely to be suspended than white students.4
• Looking at suspension data from 18 of the largest urban middle schools in 2002 and 2006, the greatest increase was among black females, which increased by more than 5 percent.
•• Black male suspensions increased by 1.7 percent.
•• Suspensions among white and Hispanic males and females either increased by less than half a percent or decreased.5
• In one study, 47 percent of elementary and middle school students, and 73 percent of high school students with emotional disabilities were suspended or expelled from school.6
• A Kansas study found that students with emotional disabilities were 12 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than all other students, including those
with and without disabilities.7
Whether zero tolerance policies improve the school environment and allow increased academic achievement is debatable.
• Studies show there is no evidence that connects student suspensions, which are perceived to improve the learning environment for other students by removing troublemakers, to improved academic outcomes for the school as a whole.8
• Students suspended in the sixth grade are more likely to receive suspensions in the eighth grade, indicating that suspensions are not a deterrent for future behavioral problems.
• A suspension is one of four indicators that point to an increased likelihood a student will not graduate from high school.9 The Council of State governments 1
1Rausch, M. Karega, and Skiba, Russell J. “Discipline, Disability, and Race: Disproportionality in Indiana Schools.” Center for Evaluation & Education Policy. Volume 4, Number 10, Fall 2006.
2Losen, Daniel J. and Skiba, Russell. “Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis.” http://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/downloads/publication/Suspended_Education.pdf
6 Center for Evaluation & Education Policy.
8Rausch, M. Karega, and Skiba, Russell J. “The Academic Cost of Discipline: The Relationship Between Suspension/Expulsion and School Achievement.” Center for Evaluation & Education Policy.
9 American Youth Policy Forum. “Improving the Transition from Middle Grades to High Schools: The Role of Early Warning Indicators.” Jan. 25, 2008. http://www.aypf.org/forumbriefs/2008/fb012508.htm

Moi wrote in Inappropriate discipline: The first step on the road to education failure:

Joan Gausted of the University of Oregon has an excellent article in Eric Digest 78, School Discipline:

School discipline has two main goals: (1) ensure the safety of staff and students, and (2) create an environment conducive to learning. Serious student misconduct involving violent or criminal behavior defeats these goals and often makes headlines in the process. However, the commonest discipline problems involve noncriminal student behavior (Moles 1989).

The issue for schools is how to maintain order, yet deal with noncriminal student behavior and keep children in school.

Alan Schwartz wrote a provocative article in the New York Times about a longitudinal study of discipline conducted in Texas. In School Discipline Study Raises Fresh Questions Schwartz reports:

Raising new questions about the effectiveness of school discipline, a report scheduled for release on Tuesday found that 31 percent of Texas students were suspended off campus or expelled at least once during their years in middle and high school — at an average of almost four times apiece. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/education/19discipline.html?_r=1&hpw

Donna St. George wrote a Washington Post article which elaborates on the Texas study.

In the article, Study shows wide varieties in discipline methods among very similar schools, St. George reports:

The report, released Tuesday, challenges a common misperception that the only way schools can manage behavior is through suspension, said Michael D. Thompson, a co-author of the report, done by the Council of State Governments Justice Center and Texas A&M University’s Public Policy Research Institute. “The bottom line is that schools can get different outcomes with very similar student bodies,” he said. “School administrators and school superintendents and teachers can have a dramatic impact….”
The results showed that suspension or expulsion greatly increased a student’s risk of being held back a grade, dropping out or landing in the juvenile justice system. Such ideas have been probed in other research, but not with such a large population and across a lengthy period, experts said. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/study-exposes-some-some-myths-about-school-discipline/2011/07/18/gIQAV0sZMI_story.html?wpisrc=emailtoafriend

Family First Aid has a good discussion about the types of behavior problems that result in suspension or expulsion. Dore Francis has a guide, which lists what parents should do if their child is suspended. The guide gives detailed instructions to these steps and other steps. Francis also lists what questions to ask after meeting with school officials. https://drwilda.com/2011/12/13/inappropriate-discipline-the-first-step-on-the-road-to-education-failure/

Lizette Alvarez reported in the New York Times article, Seeing the Toll, Schools Revise Zero Tolerance:

Rather than push children out of school, districts like Broward are now doing the opposite: choosing to keep lawbreaking students in school, away from trouble on the streets, and offering them counseling and other assistance aimed at changing behavior.
These alternative efforts are increasingly supported, sometimes even led, by state juvenile justice directors, judges and police officers.
In Broward, which had more than 1,000 arrests in the 2011 school year, the school district entered into a wide-ranging agreement last month with local law enforcement, the juvenile justice department and civil rights groups like the N.A.A.C.P. to overhaul its disciplinary policies and de-emphasize punishment.
Some states, prodded by parents and student groups, are similarly moving to change the laws; in 2009, Florida amended its laws to allow school administrators greater discretion in disciplining students.
“A knee-jerk reaction for minor offenses, suspending and expelling students, this is not the business we should be in,” said Robert W. Runcie, the Broward County Schools superintendent, who took the job in late 2011. “We are not accepting that we need to have hundreds of students getting arrested and getting records that impact their lifelong chances to get a job, go into the military, get financial aid.”
Nationwide, more than 70 percent of students involved in arrests or referrals to court are black or Hispanic, according to federal data.
“What you see is the beginning of a national trend here,” said Michael Thompson, the director of the Council of State Governments Justice Center. “Everybody recognizes right now that if we want to really find ways to close the achievement gap, we are really going to need to look at the huge number of kids being removed from school campuses who are not receiving any classroom time.”
Pressure to change has come from the Obama administration, too. Beginning in 2009, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education aggressively began to encourage schools to think twice before arresting and pushing children out of school. In some cases, as in Meridian, Miss., the federal government has sued to force change in schools.
Some view the shift as politically driven and worry that the pendulum may swing too far in the other direction. Ken Trump, a school security consultant, said that while existing policies are at times misused by school staffs and officers, the policies mostly work well, offering schools the right amount of discretion.
“It’s a political movement by civil rights organizations that have targeted school police,” Mr. Trump said. “If you politicize this on either side, it’s not going to help on the front lines.”
Supporters, though, emphasize the flexibility in these new policies and stress that they do not apply to students who commit felonies or pose a danger….

The whole child approach is useful in keeping many children in school.

Moi wrote in The ‘whole child’ approach to education: Many children do not have a positive education experience in the education system for a variety of reasons. Many educators are advocating for the “whole child” approach to increase the number of children who have a positive experience in the education process. https://drwilda.com/2012/02/10/the-whole-child-approach-to-education/

In order to ensure that ALL children have a basic education, we must take a comprehensive approach to learning.

A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood ©


Education Law Center http://www.edlawcenter.org/ELCPublic/StudentRights/StudentDiscipline.htm

Discipline In Schools: What Works and What Doesn’t? http://www.eduguide.org/article/discipline-in-school-what-works-and-what-doesnt

Justice for Children and Youth has a pamphlet -I’m being expelled from school – what are my rights? http://www.jfcy.org/pamphlets.html


Report: Black students more likely to be suspended https://drwilda.com/2012/08/07/report-black-students-more-likely-to-be-suspended/

Johns Hopkins study finds ‘Positive Behavior Intervention’ improves student behavior https://drwilda.com/2012/10/22/johns-hopkins-study-finds-positive-behavior-intervention-improves-student-behavior/

Pre-kindergarten programs help at-risk students prepare for school https://drwilda.com/2012/07/16/pre-kindergarten-programs-help-at-risk-students-prepare-for-school/

A strategy to reduce school suspensions: ‘School Wide Positive Behavior Support’ https://drwilda.com/2012/07/01/a-strategy-to-reduce-school-suspensions-school-wide-positive-behavior-support/

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