Zero tolerance policies have been ruining kids’ lives in schools all across the nation, but at last many schools are beginning to rethink the foolish policy. Now, even The New York Times has come out in favor of ending the practice.
In a January 5 editorial, the Times reviews some of the problems with school zero tolerance policies, notes that several states are starting to rethink continued support for them, and flatly states that “reappraisals” for such policies “are long overdue.”
“Long overdue” is an understatement. Zero tolerance polices have been responsible for kids being thrown out of school for the most entirely absurd “infractions.”
Cases abound. There was the girl in Orlando who was thrown out of school for having nail clippers in class, a boy suspended for using his fingers like a bow and arrow, a teen on the verge of expulsion for wearing a t-shirt with a hunting rifle printed on it, and, most ridiculously, the seven-year-old boy who was to be expelled because he chewed his Pop-Tart into the shape of a pistol. These stories of idiotic “infractions” of school zero tolerance policies for “weapons” are legion, and new ones seem to turn up every other month during the school year.
Since the late 1990s, examples like these have littered the media from coast to coast.
The paper of record makes an important point by noting that this is all an outgrowth of federal meddling in our schools. “These policies date back to 1994,” the Times reports, “when Congress required states receiving federal education money to expel students for bringing guns onto school property.”
For fear of losing the millions in education dollars coming from the federal government, states began to go to ridiculous lengths to make sure they abided by the federal requirements. That is when states began to institute zero tolerance policies where the harshest punishment was demanded for the tiniest infractions.
It was also a way for school administrators to get out of having to make adult decisions about what their kids were doing. For two decades now, administrator after administrator has thrown up his hands, pointed to his school’s zero tolerance policy, and proclaimed himself helpless to make any decision about punishment except that which the policy demanded.
But now, states such as Texas, California, and Florida–the nation’s most populous states–are starting to come to their senses and are making efforts to curtail their zero tolerance policies.
As these changes wend their way through state school systems and the halls of their legislatures, the Times insists, “School systems across the country should pay attention.”
Indeed, they should.