Zero-tolerance discipline policies grow in popularity
A discussion with superintendents on school safety
Mixing public education with military discipline
The expulsion of seven students in Decatur, Illinois has opened the debate over the zero tolerance policy. Does it discriminate? Does it work?
Zero tolerance allows a school district to expel any student who fights, brings weapons, or disrupts the school's environment.
Jesse Jackson joins the protest
The seven Decatur students were expelled for two years after participating in a brawl at a high school football game.
The incident was caught on home video and became a national media event when CNN ran pictures of the fight.
After the students were expelled, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson decided it was time to speak out. Jackson argued that the expulsions were unfair and racial biased. He called on the school board to reverse their decision.
Jackson helped organize protest marches which attracted packs of national media, and closed down several high high schools in the area. Jackson was arrested for civil unrest, but later released.
The Decatur board consented to a year expulsion instead of two years.
A Bold Policy
Tensions at the nation's schools have run especially high since last spring's Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. Early last month, a Columbine student was arrested for threatening to "finish the job."
Last month, a Texas teenager spent five days in jail for writing a Halloween story that described the shooting of two classmates and a teacher.
Since the Decatur school board adopted the zero tolerance policy in the 1998-99 school year it has expelled more than 1,700 students out of the 11,000 enrolled.
And Decatur is not alone. Hoping to stop school violence, large school districts like Chicago and Houston have instituted zero tolerance policies.
At the same time, a U.S. Department of Education report suggests that the problem may not actually be as bad as it seems. Overall, the report found, school violence has declined. Zero-tolerance policies, however, are spreading.
But some educators say that zero tolerance hurts students. Studies show that more that 80% of students expelled from school never return. Often the students end up on the streets.
Initially when the seven Decatur students were expelled, they were not placed in an alternative education program. With Jackson's assistance 6 are now enrolled in a program, one student has dropped out.
What do you think?
Do zero tolerance policies make school safe? Does your school have a zero tolerance policy? Or does zero tolerance go to far? Tell us what you think ....
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