Zero Tolerance Doesn’t Work

The most recent data from the National Center on Educational Statistics (NCES) showed that more than 3.3 million students were either suspended or expelled in 2006 – nearly one in 14.  Of these fewer than one in 10 were for offenses such as tardiness, talking back to a teacher or violating a school’s dress codes.  For minority students, in 2006, about 15 percent of black students were suspended as compared with 7 percent of Hispanic students, 5 percent of white students.  In New York City, the Civil Liberties Union revealed that suspensions of 4-to 10-year-olds had increased 76 percent since 2003.

If these statistics had resulted in better school performance or less violence I could support zero tolerance.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Research shows that zero tolerance fails to improve student behavior.  It is a “quick fix'”because it remove from class/school the students who could profit the most from increased education and denies them access to needed services like counseling.  Worse still, it increases the likelihood that the suspended students will be involved with the justice system which will lead to their dropping out of school.