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NCJ Number: 196943 Find in a Library
Title: Weapons of Choice: Zero Tolerance School Discipline Policies and the Limitations of Student Procedural Due Process
Journal: Children's Legal Rights Journal  Volume:22  Issue:1  Dated:Spring 2002  Pages:2-10
Author(s): Kevin P. Brady
Editor(s): Maria L. Whiteman
Date Published: 2002
Page Count: 9
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article analyzes the recent Fuller versus Decatur Public School Board of Education School District 61 decision as an example of the courts’ general lack of receptivity to substantive due process concerns in the application of a school district’s zero tolerance policies.
Abstract: Since the 1990's, zero tolerance policies or school disciplinary polices mandating severe-predetermined punishments for specific student infractions or offenses have continued to be popular disciplinary options chosen by school administrators across the country. The zero tolerance laws in schools originated with the passage of the 1994 Federal Gun-Free Schools Act. The objective by school administrators in choosing zero tolerance policies is to ensure safer schools and better-disciplined students. This article addresses the need for school leaders and the courts to reassess the degree of due process provided in long-term suspensions and expulsions, including zero tolerance disciplinary policies. Students are rarely afforded the privilege of substantive due process considerations, determining whether the disciplinary sanction fit the crime. One of the more widely publicized zero tolerance controversies occurred in Decatur, Illinois. The Decatur Public School Board of Education received the media spotlight after seven African-American high school students received a 2-year expulsion under the School Board’s zero tolerance policy for fighting at a high school football game. The outcome was a student filed suit, Fuller versus Decatur Public School Board of Education School District 61. The major issue in the Fuller case was whether the Decatur Public School Board’s no tolerance/zero tolerance policy for violence violated the six students procedural and substantive due process rights. In 2000, the U.S. District Judge ruled and upheld the Decatur school board’s original 2-year tolerance punishment of the students based on specific legal grounds. The courts have been cautious and ambivalent concerning their roles in legal issues related to school discipline. However, long-term suspensions and expulsions necessitate attention to higher degrees of student due process, including both minimum procedural due process and substantive due process. Through the examination of due process in zero tolerance suspensions and expulsion proceedings, a convincing argument is made for the need of schools and courts to reconsider the level of due process provided students subjected to school disciplinary processes. Endnotes
Main Term(s): School discipline
Index Term(s): Discipline; Illinois; Judicial process; Juvenile due process; Right to Due Process; Rights of the accused; School/Student Expulsion
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