Time to end ‘zero tolerance’ policy in schools

There are laws on the books with good intentions. However, reality soon sets in and what was thought to be a good idea begins to show a few holes.

Such is the case with the public school system’s “zero tolerance” policy. As school violence increased over recent years, the policy was implemented to set strict guidelines with no room for appeal. And then the horror stories started.

Elementary students across the nation were expelled for pocket knives or other camping gear. Suspicious looking keychains got a student sent home. What was intended to keep guns and dangerous weapons out of schools ended up with Boy Scouts being kicked out for forgetting to take out their Swiss Army knife after a weekend in the woods.

It’s one thing to bring a loaded gun to school. It’s completely different forgetting you still have that lighter in your pocket after building campfires.

According to a segment of All Things Considered on NPR, roughly three million students were expelled between the 2010-2011 school year. That has led the Obama administration in the last week to push for newer guidelines and scrap the zero tolerance idea.

“The proposed guidelines require more training in classroom management and conflict resolution, clearer rules for faculty and security personnel in deciding what constitutes a major threat to school safety versus a kid simply acting out,” NPR said. “Federal government figures show that of the three million students who were suspended or expelled during the 2010-2011 school year, a quarter of a million were referred to law enforcement, even though 95 percent were for non-violent behavior.”

There are also a couple of bills before the Georgia General Assembly this year to revise the zero tolerance policy.

We hope they pass. It’s time to do away with the zero tolerance policy for public schools.

Instead, disciplinary actions should be left to the principals and administration. It’s part of what they are trained to do. Tying their hands means good kids face expulsion because they simply forgot.

We believe it is up to the individual school administrations to deal with each situation on a case-by-case basis. They know the students best, as well as the intent — or lack thereof.



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