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Zero Tolerance With Zero Results

via. Nate Beeler; Courtesy of MCT

via. Nate Beeler; Courtesy of MCT

by Jake Grosvenor and Eli Duncan

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Punching, kicking, stabbing, self-defense, and standing up for  yourself. What do these all have in common? In school, these all will get you a suspension or expulsion with the ever-so-helpful Zero Tolerance rule.

Zero Tolerance is the rule that no violence is allowed on school, and the extreme vagueness of this rule leaves many innocent kids and teens with a permanent mark on their records as being suspended or worse and, in many cases, the kids did nothing wrong.

There’s no doubt that there are students that cause issues and fights for the sole purpose of causing issues and wanting to show how tough they are. In a lot of cases, however, students can be the victim of bullying, mostly physical, and in self-defense are labeled just as bad as the person that attacked them.

The zero tolerance rule has no exception for trying to defend yourself against an attack, and what’s worse is that if you stand by and get beat, you are still going to be punished. If I was to attack some innocent kid out of nowhere, that innocent kid who was minding his business will still be marked and labeled an issue child for doing nothing.

This policy doesn’t just affect middle and high school students. Surprisingly, this will even go down to kindergarten, like one case involving a student being suspended for ten days after referring to “shooting” another student with a Hello Kitty bubble gun. Another student was suspended after making a finger gun, something we have all done at one point or another.

The rule has made every school into a safe place, now allowing even the slightest mention of violence without being punished. If we are punishing kids for “shooting” kids with a bubble blower, what are we teaching kids? To me, that’s not teaching kids not to fight, but to sit in a corner and draw with dull pencils (although a sharp one might resemble a knife too much).

Part of the Zero Tolerance rule is the Gun Free Schools Act of 1994. This mandates students be expelled for at least a year if found in possession of a firearm on school grounds. This is something that all of us can get behind. No one can deny the fact that guns are dangerous, especially around a large number of people who are untrained in the act of shooting. Most students don’t know how to shoot an airsoft gun correctly, let alone a real gun. However, this has given way to wrongful expulsions, like the two mentioned above. The U.S. Department of Education study found that of all the suspensions and expulsions that came from this act, 42 percent were elementary and middle school students.

At its core, the Zero Tolerance rule and the laws that go along with it aren’t inherently “evil”. The initial intent of this policy was to “remove” background information among the students that are traditionally overrepresented when assigning punishments. This would make the punishments fair among all students. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t work well. African American, Latino, poor and disabled students still were disproportionality represented. However, the same study also concluded that these students also went to schools with harsher disciplinary action at a much higher rate.

Like many other laws that have been put into schools, the lawmakers passed it and then started asking questions later. Zero Tolerance is widespread among schools and it varies among them as well. The variations in the policy alongside the vast amount of teacher interpretations of what the policy means and how they should deal with it, coupled with the amount of arguably pointless suspensions and expulsions, it is hard to see why schools still practice the Zero Tolerance rule.

When you have a rule that is up to an individual interpretation, you get kids being told they are bad because they made a finger gun, or showed their friend a cool bubble gun they got. Like stated before, Zero Tolerance has the right idea of preventing violence, but the means of which it’s doing so is hurting more people than helping. It’s time we stop being so sensitive and actually look at the harm this rule is doing and realize making finger guns is no warrant for suspension, and instead punish the actual fights that happen.

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Zero Tolerance With Zero Results