Does Zero Tolerance Work?

Zero-tolerance policies, which require out-of-school suspension or expulsion for certain inappropriate behaviors, have become the go-to disciplinary approach in many schools. But research suggests such punishments may not change students’ behavior and are often meted out unfairly.

The idea of out of school suspension for being truant or late makes no sense at all.  Schools and parents don’t have control over the kids when they’re at home. Some children see this kind of suspension as a reward and look forward to missing school so that they can engage in other activities like watching television. In addition, data indicate that suspension has been shown to disproportionately affect black, Latino, and male students and those with disabilities.  How do students who have been suspended make up the work they have missed?  Data also indicate that these punishments force students out of school – “push outs.”

What are the alternatives?  Why not in-school suspension during lunch where these students can be isolated from friends?  Or how about mandatory in-school suspension on Saturdays?