Discipline in Schools

February 15, 2008 • Volume 18, Issue 7
Are zero-tolerance policies fair?
By Thomas J. Billitteri

Introduction

Members of the Louisiana Technical College community mourn after a student shot and killed two fellow students on Feb. 8, 2008, and then took her own life.  (AP Photo/Tim Mueller)
Members of the Louisiana Technical College community mourn after a student shot and killed two fellow students on Feb. 8, 2008, and then took her own life. (AP Photo/Tim Mueller)

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.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Violence in Schools
Feb. 15, 2008  Discipline in Schools
Feb. 04, 2005  Bullying
Jan. 09, 2004  Hazing
Mar. 10, 2000  Zero Tolerance for School Violence
Oct. 09, 1998  School Violence
Sep. 11, 1992  Violence in Schools
Aug. 13, 1976  Violence in the Schools
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Crime and Law Enforcement
Elementary and Secondary Education
Students and Social Life