Restorative Justice or Zero Tolerance
Each state defines their zero tolerance policies. Sometimes, these policies may be enforced by police officers employed as school resource officers or SROs. SRO’s are paid for by the federal government. They supposedly enforce Federal Gun Free School Act that was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994. It’s purpose was to mandate that states design their own zero tolerance policies to make schools safer. This law focussed on punishing students who brought weapons and drugs into schools. In certain states, SRO’s are much more involved in student discipline in accordance with the state’s zero tolerance policies. For more information, visit my last blog.
I believe that zero tolerance policies have morphed into a more general means of discipline. The Harvard Law Review agrees. The results of these policies in 2011-2-12 according to the US Department of Education are horrifying. This document says that 3.45 million students enrolled in public school were suspended out of school and 130,000 were expelled in one school year. Racism and intolerance was rampant in these decisions. Children with disabilities and of color were 2 to 3 times more likely to be victims of this discipline. Here is an example of zero tolerance policies.
Did racism or prejudice lead to the accusation of the teen? Did the teacher assume that this student was guilty? Why the punishment of expulsion for throwing a soft snowball? Why wasn’t the group of children sent to the principal for a discussion of safer places to throw snowballs? or perhaps the homeroom teacher could have handled this situation in an after-school discussion? Have we forgotten that we can teach appropriate behavior with words? For confirmation of this snowball incident, visit the American Bar Association Journal at this web site.
For more information on zero tolerance and students with mental health issues visit Mental Health America.net/positions/zero-tolerance.
Some states are rewriting their zero tolerance policies. Is your state one of them?