Zero Tolerance There are many disciplinary actions that have been used and are still in use in order to deal with problems in the school system today. However, it seems that zero tolerance is now the most widely used and most controversial policy that has came into effect. Zero tolerance means absolutely no mercy for students when accused of doing something wrong. This policy leaves no room at all for error.
These cases are not judged for their individual qualities. They are all treated the same regardless of the circumstances. When zero tolerance is thought of, it seems like a very practical way of dealing with the problems that we face everyday in the school system. However, we then have to ask ourselves if it is fair to give all "offenders" of a crime the same punishment without looking at the circumstances of each case. There have been many cases of zero tolerance use that shows just how unfair this policy is.
An example of the misuse of zero tolerance is this; a student was kicked out of school for writing a paper that involved guns. This paper said nothing about harming anyone but the student was still kicked out. Is this to say that by having the word "gun" in my paper that I will be kicked out of school too? Zero Tolerance has a very good literal appeal. Parents and some students alike are happy to have this disciplinary action. However, zero tolerance would not have stopped the school shootings that have recently plagued the country. A recent poll showed that schools having a "secure building", one with metal detectors and locker searches, were more fearful of shootings than those schools with less restrictive school safety measures (Justice Policy Institute).
When Rev. Jesse Jackson was asked about zero tolerance on the effect of school shootings he gave this response, "Would zero tolerance have stopped the shooting at Paducah or at Columbine? I think not. If somebody's sufficiently malfunctioning and in confusion, shooting classmates may be their first act of violence." This quote shows that zero tolerance is not the answer to discipline problems in the school. A student with the idea of harming other students is apparently not concerned with the consequences of their actions. In a way, zero tolerance seems like a way for the school to not have to deal with the problem. Does that seem like the right way to teach or help a student in need? To some students a suspension or expulsion is just some days that they don't have to go to school.
So when people look at zero tolerance and think of it as a good thing they are not actually looking at it in its entirety. Instead of suspending or expelling the student, they should be helped, whether it is some form of counseling or other action. Giving students free days from school with expulsion or suspension is not helping that student, it is actually making the situation worse. A majority of the time it is students who feel that no one cares for them that commit crimes in schools. Zero tolerance is sending the message that we (school) don't care what problems you have, just get out. The number of students that have been suspended each year has doubled since in the past twenty-five years.
In 1974, the number of students suspended was 1. 7 million. That number jumped to 3. 1 million in 1998.
In certain counties in Florida almost half of high school students have been suspended at least once. The first year that Chicago implemented its zero tolerance policy was in 1994. The annual number of students expelled annually then rose from 23 to 737 (Wald). In conclusion, zero tolerance is not the answer to school's problems. As you can see from the chart above it certainly has not lowered the rate of suspensions or expulsions. The numbers of suspensions and expulsions have been on a steady rise over the past few years.
Zero tolerance has not decreased these rates at all. The main problem with zero tolerance is that even when a student is suspended they will be back in a few days. When a student is expelled they will be back the next year. When a student comes back from being expelled or suspended it has not taught them anything. It's pretty hard to learn from your mistake when instead of actually going to school, you go home and watch TV.