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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 182002 Find in a Library
Title: Zero Tolerance, Zero Sense
Journal: ABA Journal  Volume:86  Dated:April 2000  Pages:40-113
Author(s): Margaret G. Tebo
Date Published: 2000
Page Count: 8
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Some say strict, inflexible policies are necessary to prevent school violence, but others argue that all-or-nothing punishments merely alienate students.
Abstract: Kids whose misbehaviors in the past would have occasioned oral reprimands from a teacher or perhaps a trip to the principal's office are now being labeled a threat to school safety. Punishments for these incidents may range from suspension to expulsion to referral to the juvenile court system, even though the behaviors themselves do not actually compromise school safety. The result of this zero tolerance for student misbehavior is a growing alienation between the administrators who implement the policies and the kids they are trying to protect. Except in cases in which the student has been shown to be covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, courts have apparently been reluctant to invade the jurisdiction of school authorities to make disciplinary decisions. The only requirement appears to be minimal due process, which the courts have found can be satisfied by merely holding a hearing at which the student and parents are given an opportunity to speak. One exception is a 1999 Pennsylvania case in which the court found that the school board exceeded its authority in adopting a zero-tolerance policy that resulted in the expulsion of a seventh-grader for possession of a Swiss Army knife. By adopting a zero-tolerance policy that denied the superintendent the ability to review the expulsion decision, the school board exceeded its authority, the court said in overturning the expulsion. Rather than safeguarding the good kids from the bad, zero tolerance seems to be a convenient policy for schools unable or unwilling to prevent school violence by identifying and counseling at-risk students before they turn violent. Under strict policies, some students are less inclined to confide in teachers or school counselors for themselves or friends who may need constructive intervention.
Main Term(s): Juvenile delinquency prevention
Index Term(s): Deterrence effectiveness; Punishment; School delinquency programs; School discipline; School security
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