Shocking Report: “Zero Tolerance” Policies Are Stupid and Destructive. Who Knew?

If you wanted proof of the utter stupidity and recklessness of no-tolerance policies in the schools, your search is over.

A study of the effects of  ‘Zero Tolerance’ programs in Texas public schools by the Council of State Government’s Justice Center reveals that:

  • Six out of ten Texas high school students have been suspended for expelled or suspended from class at least once over the past six years.
  •  15 % of students were removed from the classroom eleven or more times for disciplinary reasons.
  •  83% of African-American students in Texas have been expelled at least once by the time they graduate
  •  African American students and those with educational disabilities experience a disproportionately higher rate of removal from the classroom for disciplinary reasons.

Michael Thompson, who headed the study, says the ‘zero tolerance’ programs have  denied education to the students who needed it the most. The school districts that have a rational approach to discipline, he says, have far better records of success than districts which follow ‘zero tolerance’ policies.

Wow. Stupid, lazy, and unfair  policies that punish students for technical infractions do more damage than good? Thank goodness we had a study to tell us that!

The destructive no-tolerance policies in Texas and elsewhere were the outgrowth of the same cries of “do something!” that we now hear in response to the Casey Anthony fiasco, the Barn Door Fallacy. Then, it was the Columbine shooting, and the reaction was to make good students suffer and punish them for bringing aspirin tablets to school (“DRUGS!!!), having a tiny “G.I. Joe” rifle in their pocket (“GUNS!!!”) or waxing regretful on Facebook that Osama Bin Laden didn’t blow up a teacher. The depressing but predictable report of the Justice Center shows just how much self-inflicted harm the schools caused by “doing something,” not that our society will learn. The “do something” response to a tragedy appears to be beyond eradication, imbedded as it is in human nature and the lower reaches of the IQ scale. Standing up to the mob and telling it to calm down, stop panicking, and consider consequences is the responsibility of school boards, administrators and elected officials, and, alas, that takes competence and courage.

We don’t have enough of either.

3 Comments

Filed under Education, Government & Politics, Professions, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

3 responses to “Shocking Report: “Zero Tolerance” Policies Are Stupid and Destructive. Who Knew?

  1. Tim LeVier

    You know, if we aren’t going to trust a principal or a dean of students to make quality assessments and decisions regarding student discipline, then we can fire the expensive administrators we have currently and we can hire a minimum wage automaton to process the discipline.

    If we tell teachers what they can say and what they can’t say, then we might as well load up a Wiki-site with approved information and run a presentation for the kids rather than have an expensive human deciding how and what to teach. I’m rather surprised that there aren’t “No Tolerance” policies for “Asking Questions”; as a question can lead to a teacher saying something unapproved.

  2. Michael

    You think that’s good, you need to see the latest thing in school discipline. The next step after zero tolerance (make sure the principal doesn’t have to make a decision) is to outsource it to the criminal justice system. At the high school in my town, the teachers are allowed to write the students tickets. If they are acting up in class, “There is your disorderly conduct ticket, Tell it to the judge. ” The teacher writes out the ticket and the school police officer signs it later. The student then has to go to court for sentencing. It sure has cut down on the number of students driving to school (the judges often punish the kids by not letting them get their license until they are 18).

    • tgt

      I smell procedural issues? Do the teachers also get qualified immunity? Can they be prosecuted if what they report is inaccurate?

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