Friday, August 19, 2022

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Article Index

A. Justifications for Zero-tolerance Policies

1. Taking School Violence Seriously

Arguments in support of zero-tolerance policies are often based on the idea that school violence "is at a crisis level and increasing, thus necessitating forceful, no-nonsense strategies for violence prevention."   One article supporting zero-tolerance policies pointed to several school shootings as evidence of the problem of school violence.   The author went on to argue that "even the silliest threats must be taken seriously," noting that students who make jokes about violence sometimes have real intentions of engaging in violent acts.   According to proponents of zero tolerance, these policies are needed to effectively investigate students who may pose real threats to school safety and *1255 prevent them from engaging in truly dangerous activities.   Zero-tolerance policies may also deter bad behavior by unequivocally communicating to students that violence is impermissible and that disciplinary infractions will be punished swiftly and firmly.  

2. Consistently Punishing Disciplinary Infractions

Another common justification for zero-tolerance policies is based on a desire to treat students fairly and consistently. Proponents of the practice argue that zero tolerance helps school administrators treat like offenses alike.   A consulting firm that assists schools in implementing zero-tolerance policies explains that the vast majority of school administrators "strive for firm, fair, and consistent discipline applied with good common sense."   However, if students are not subject to predetermined punishments for misbehavior, they will learn that "there are no consequences for inappropriate--and sometimes illegal--behavior as long as it occurs within the [school] grounds."   Likewise, zero-tolerance policies may help diminish racial disparities in school discipline by dictating sanctions for behavioral infractions in advance and diminishing the potential for racial bias in punishment.

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