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.