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CI: Decriminalizing School Discipline

February 12, 2014 at 7:18 pm by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World

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Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Decriminalizing School Discipline: How to Stop the School to Prison Pipeline at The Source
by nancy a heitzeg

Last week, I had the privilege of participating on this panel at the American Bar Association Midyear Meeting: “The School-to-Prison Pipeline: What are the Problems? What are the Solutions?” The event was jointly sponsored by the ABA’s Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice, the Criminal Justice Section and the Counsel for Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline. Panelists included the Reverend Janette C. Wilson of RainbowPUSH; Dr. Artika Tyner, a clinical law professor and diversity director at the University of St. Thomas School of Law; Mariame Kaba of Project NIA and Prison Culture; Robert Saunooke, chair of the ABA’s Tribal Courts Council, and Julie Biehl, Director of Children and Family Justice Center, Northwestern University Law School.

The panel was a call for lawyers, educators, everyone to take whatever actions they could to interrupt the school to prison pipeline. In particular, emphasis was placed on the role of the new Federal Guidelines on School Climate and Discipline and the opportunity offered now to move away from decades of zero tolerance. The piece below, written for Praeger/ABC-CLIO Publishing’s on-line series Enduring Questions, highlights the role of zero tolerance policies and police in the schools, both key policy cornerstones in the school to prison pipeline.

Over the years, Criminal InJustice has written much on this topic, in part, with the  hope that this may be the a pathway into a larger social critique of the prison industrial complex which impels it. It has been my experience that however deep the commitment some have to “law and order”, to the harsh policing and punishment of adults, the school to prison pipeline gives many pause. There is something so shocking, so fundamentally unfair about the notion of children, increasingly young,  being policed in the pursuit of an education, being criminalized for mere childish misbehavior. It is so unfair it can sometimes shine a light back on the entire system that it is designed to feed.

So let it now.

 Decriminalizing School Discipline

The school to prison to prison pipeline is the direct result of educational policies and practices that have transformed our schools from sites of opportunity and inclusion into centers of criminalization and exclusion. Over the past two decades, the proliferation of “zero tolerance” policies and an increased police presence at schools have combined to shape the school to prison pipeline via the “criminalization of school discipline.”[1] The school to prison pipeline is a consequence of schools which criminalize minor disciplinary infractions via zero tolerance policies, have a police and/or security officers (School Resource Officer or SRO) presence for enforcement, and rely on suspensions, expulsions and arrests for minor infractions. While these policies were motivated, in part, by the perceived need to increase “safety” and “security”, zero tolerance policies and police in schools have instead increased the risks of criminalization for segments of the student body, particularly students of color. Dismantling the school to prison pipeline then, requires immediate attention to the very policies that push students out of school, criminalize minor misconduct, and blur the distinction between the educational function of schools and the punishing power of legal systems.

The School to Prison Pipeline: Definition and Context

stpp jpgThe term, the school to prison pipeline began to emerge in the late 1990s as scholars, child advocates, and community activists began to see the results of school policy changes that emerged during that decade. “The school to prison pipeline” describes the growing pattern of tracking students out of educational institutions and sending them on a pathway towards the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.[2]

Sometimes this push towards prison and jail is indirect; students who are suspended and/or expelled are less likely to return to school, are sent to under-resourced alternative schools, and are, in effective, “pushed out” of the educational system. Increasingly, the school to prison pipeline operates in a more direct fashion, as misconduct has become criminalized and as a growing police presence in the schools allows for direct arrests and ticketing, often for minor misconduct that once would have been handled by teachers and school administrators.[3]

The school to prison pipeline, and the policies that make it possible, do not exist in isolation. The school to prison pipeline is part and parcel of a larger socio-political climate of media driven fears of crime and “gangs” it is consistent with a range of policies associated with mass incarceration, harsh sentences for non-violent offenses, and an increasingly punitive legal system for both juveniles and adults. Further, the impact of the school to prison pipeline is complicated by and correlated with failing schools that are over-crowded, inadequately resourced, heavily pressured by the high-stakes testing originally associated with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and highly segregated by both race and class.[4] Still, any efforts to dismantle the school to prison pipeline must focus immediately on the two sets of inter-related policies that are at the very heart of the matter: zero tolerance and police in schools.

Zero Tolerance and Police in the Hallways

While there is no official definition of the term zero tolerance, generally the term means that a harsh predefined mandatory consequence is applied to a violation of school rules without regard to the seriousness of the behavior, mitigating circumstances, or the situational context. Violators are suspended, expelled, and increasingly arrested and charged in juvenile court as a result.[5] Zero tolerance rhetoric, which was borrowed from the War on Drugs, became widespread by the mid- 1990s, despite school crime/violence rates that were stable or declining. Implementation was achieved by appeals to fears and calls for safety, and further enforced by the connection of related policies to both federal and state school funding.

The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 (GFSA) provided the initial impetus for zero tolerance policies. The GFSA mandates that all schools that receive federal funding must 1) have policies to expel for a calendar year any student who brings a firearm to school or to school zone, and 2) report that student to local law enforcement, thereby blurring any distinction between disciplinary infractions at school and breaking the law. Subsequent amendments to The GFSA and changes in many state laws and local school district regulations broadened the GFSA focus on firearms to apply to many other kinds of weapons[6].

While the original intent of The GFSA was to require these punishments for serious violations involving weapons, conduct, most schools nationally have adopted zero-tolerance policies for a variety of behavioral issues- weapons, alcohol/drugs, threatening behavior, fighting on school premises, and increasingly, minor “misconduct” such as tardiness, “defiance” and disorderly conduct.[7]  Zero tolerance policies often do not distinguish between serious and non-serious offenses, nor do they adequately separate intentional troublemakers from those with behavioral disorders. And as the name implies, these policies indicate zero-tolerance for any infractions, casting a very wide net.

Zero tolerance policies are additionally associated with an increased police presence at school, metal detectors, security cameras, locker and person searches and all the accoutrements of legal control. The Safe Schools Act of 1994 and a 1998 amendment to the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 promoted partnerships between schools and law enforcement, including the provision of funding for in-school police forces or School Resource Officers[8]. In 1999, the US Department of Justice “COPS in Schools” grant program dramatically increased the use of SROs, in part as a response to the highly publicized Columbine shootings.[9]

The presence of uniformed police officers in schools is now routine. An estimated one-third of all sheriffs’ offices and almost half of all municipal police departments assign nearly 17,000 sworn officers to serve in schools, and nearly half of all public schools have assigned police officers.[10] Although enhanced security measures security measures were largely inspired by the school-shootings in predominately white suburban schools, they have been most readily adopted and enforced in urban schools, where nearly 70% report a police presence.[11] It is less common, but also possible now for some schools to employ canine units, Tasers, and SWAT team raids for drug and weapons searches[12].

Zero Tolerance and Police in the Hallways Put Students at Risk

 Zero tolerance and school policing were promoted as policies that would increase the safety and security of students and enhance the orderly delivery of education. In reality, the opposite has occurred. There is little research that documents any correlation between these policies and reduced school violence. A growing body of work however, documents the myriad risks created for students including increased rates of suspension/expulsion and drop-puts/push-outs, hostile climate, and racial disparities in the application of discipline[13]. It is these very policies that have facilitated the flow of students out of schools and into legal systems, in fact, creating the school to prison pipeline.

Under zero tolerance policies, over 3.3 million students are suspended each year and over 100,000 expelled.[14] This number has nearly doubled since 1974, with rates escalating in the mid-1990s as zero tolerance policies began to be widely adopted[15]. Suspension and expulsion rates increased most dramatically immediately following the adoption of  No Child Left Behind legislation .Critics have noted that zero tolerance policies have been used to “push –out” low performing students. Since school funding is directly tied to test scores, NCLB gives schools an incentive to get rid of rather than remediate students with low test scores; it is more “efficient” to simply remove the child from class through punitive disciplinary measures and focus on the remaining students.[16]

While zero tolerance was initially intended to address serious offenses such as deadly weapons, assaults, and possession/sale of illegal drugs, the bulk of the suspensions are for minor infractions: Consider the following quite typical cases:

  • A 17 year old junior shot a paper clip with a rubber band at a classmate, missed, and broke the skin of a cafeteria worker. The student was expelled from school.
  • A 9 year old on the way to school found a manicure kit with a 1-inch knife. The student was suspended for one day.
  • Two 10 year old boys from Arlington, Virginia were suspended for three days for putting soapy water in a teacher’s drink. The boys were charged with a felony that carried a maximum sentence of 20 years, and were formally processed through the juvenile justice system before the case was dismissed months later.
  • A Pennsylvania kindergartener tells her friends she’s going to shoot them with a Hello Kitty toy that makes soap bubbles. The kindergartener was initially suspended for two days, and the incident was reclassified as a “threat to harm others.”
  • In Massachusetts, a 5 year old boy attending an after-school program makes a gun out of Legos, points it at other students, and mimics the sound of gunfire. He was expelled. [17]

Students who are suspended and/or expelled are deprived of educational services or are, at best referred, to sub-standard alternatives schools. Many states fail to offer any access to alternative schools. Students are left to fend for themselves, and if they are re-instated are now further behind their peers and more likely to be suspended again. In fact, rather than deterring disruptive behavior, the most likely consequence of suspension is additional suspension.[18]

Increased drop-out rates are directly related to the repeated use of suspension and expulsion. Students who have been suspended or expelled are more likely to experience poor academic performance, and eventually drop-out.[19] Additional suspensions increase this likelihood; The National Center for Education Statistics documents this: 31 percent of high school sophomores that dropped out of school had been suspended three or more times, a rate much higher than for those who had not been suspended at all.[20]

sttp7

Both suspension/expulsion and drop-out/push-out rates are highly correlated with future involvement in the juvenile and adult legal systems, creating an indirect pathway out of school and into jail.[21] It is, however, the growing police presence at schools that contributes to the direct flow of youth into the juvenile justice system. Police in schools means more arrests, and not necessarily for serious criminal violations. A variety of studies have shown that a police presence significantly increases both arrests as well as the criminalization of minor misconduct; one three-year study of numerous schools in the same district, for example, found that the schools with police had nearly five times the number of arrests for disorderly conduct as schools without a police presence.[22]

Each year, hundreds of thousands are ticketed and/or arrested at school for minor infraction; research indicates that as many as two-thirds many be for “offenses” such as talking back to teachers, truancy or disorderly conduct.[23] Consider these typical cases as well:

  • A 5 year old boy in Queens NY was arrested,handcuffed and taken to a psychiatric hospital for having a tantrum and knocking papers off the principal’s desk.
  • In St Petersburg Florida, a 5 year old girl was handcuffed arrested and taken into custody for having a tantrum and disrupting a classroom.
  • An 11 year old girl in Orlando Florida was tasered by a police officer, arrested, and faces charges of battery on a security resource officer, disrupting a school function and resisting with violence. She had pushed another student.
  • An honors student in Houston, Texas was forced to spend a night in jail when she missed class to go to work to support her family.
  • A 13 year old from New York was handcuffed and removed from school for writing the word “okay” on her school desk.[24]

This is not a climate conducive to education. The American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have found that extreme discipline, including arrests, predict grade retention, school dropout, and future involvement in the juvenile and criminal justice systems.[25] Research shows that a first-time arrest doubles the odds that a student will drop out of high school, and a first-time court appearance quadruples the odds. Zero tolerance policies and over-policing are associated with negative outcomes for all youth, academically, socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. This includes a decreased commitment to education in light of perceptions of unfair treatment.[26]

While turning schools into “secure zero tolerance environments” lowers morale and makes learning more difficult for all students, schools that have a high percentage of minority and low-income students bear the brunt (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010).  Criminalized education disproportionately impacts the poor, students with disabilities, LGBT students and youth of color, especially African Americans, who are suspended, expelled and arrested at the highest rates, despite comparable rates of infraction.[27] The U.S. Department of Education, Civil Rights Division documents the disparity. The most recent data indicates the racial gap is widening as nationally, black students were three and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers. One in five black boys and more than one in 10 black girls received an out-of-school suspension.[28]

Black students made up only 18 percent of students, but they accounted for 35 percent of those suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended more than once and 39 percent of all expulsions. In districts that reported expulsions under zero-tolerance policies, Hispanic and black students represent 45 percent of the student body, but 56 percent of those expelled under such policies.[29] In addition, black and Latino students represent over 70 percent of the students arrested or referred to law enforcement at school.[30] This racial over-representation then manifests itself in both higher drop-out rates for students of color (students from historically disadvantaged minority groups have little more than a fifty-fifty chance of finishing high school with a diploma) as well as the racialized dynamic of the legal system.[31]

Zero tolerance and over-policing in the school then create the school to prison pipeline by pushing students out of school and into legal systems. These policies and practices also shape the racial dynamic of the pipeline by dis–proportionately criminalizing students of color.

Remedies: Decriminalizing Our Schools

stpp jpgThe school to prison pipeline is most immediately the result of the criminalization of school discipline via zero tolerance policies and a police presence in schools. Sold as a means to “safety and security” and heavily funded at the expense of other educational programming, these policies have been abysmal failures. They have “succeeded” only in creating the pipeline by which students, particularly students of color, are pushed out of educational institutions and into legal systems.

A growing chorus of scholars, educators, youth advocates, and youth themselves are challenging the illogic of zero tolerance and policing in schools. There is widespread agreement that the criminalization of school discipline via zero tolerance and school-based policing is the most immediate contributor to the pipeline. There are increasing efforts – on the local, state and national levels – to curtail the impact of debilitating school discipline policies via reform and alternative approaches.

A number of school districts and states have revised their disciplinary policies, distinguishing between minor infractions and more serious violations, offering graduated responses to discipline, reducing the amount of suspension time, and encouraging a non-punitive common sense approach to discipline. Even districts that have not entirely abandoned a police presence or zero tolerance have taken steps to mitigate the scope of their impact, and decriminalize minor infractions. These schools have implemented better data collection methods to facilitate the documentation of disparities in school discipline with an eye towards remedies. Still others have offered additional training and evaluation for police officers who patrol the hallways, with a particular emphasis on dealing with students who have disabilities or mental health challenges.[32] Most recently and significantly, several school districts have turned away from a punishment –centered approach entirely with an emphasis instead on restorative/ transformative justice models and peace circles as means to create a positive school climate and culture.[33]

Nationally, the U.S. Department of Education and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice have committed to addressing disparities in the school suspensions and expulsions as a civil rights matter, including filing suit against the State of Mississippi for operating a school to prison pipeline in Meridian.[34] In December of 2012 the first ever Congressional hearings on the school to prison pipeline were held and featured expert testimony that detailed both the scope of the problem and solutions including calls for decreased funding incentives for police, increased funding for counseling, support staff  and educational resources, mandatory nation-wide data collection on suspension, expulsion and arrests at school, and support for evidenced-based solutions to end the persistent racial disparities that shape the contours of the pipeline.[35]

Of course, in the aftermath of the tragic Newtown school shooting, there were calls for more police and punishment, again in the name of school safety.    [36] But this time, taking the lessons learned in the decade since Columbine, communities are saying no. The era of criminalized educational settings, of zero tolerance and heavily policed schools, has created no solutions, but instead, pathways to prison. And that era must end.

 


[1] P. J.  Hirschfield, Preparing for prison? The criminalization of school discipline in the USA”. (Theoretical Criminology 2008), 79.

[2] Advancement Project. Education on Lockdown: The School to Jailhouse Track, (Washington, D.C. 2005); Children’s Defense Fund. America’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline. (Washington DC: CDF, 2007); NAACP.  Interrupting the School to Prison Pipe-line. (Washington DC. 2005).

[3] Advancement Project. Federal Policy, ESEA Reauthorization, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline. (Washington, D.C. 2011).

[4] Advancement Project. Test Punish and Push –Out: How “Zero Tolerance” and High–Stakes Testing Funnel Youth Into the School-to-Prison Pipeline. (Washington, D.C 2010); Nancy A. Heitzeg “Education Not Incarceration: Interrupting the School to Prison Pipeline”, Forum on Public Policy (Oxford University Press. Winter 2010)

[5] American Psychological Association. Are Zero Tolerance Policies Effective in the Schools?  An   Evidentiary Review and Recommendations. (Washington DC: APA. 2006).

[6] Thomas A.  Birkland and Regina Lawrence.  Zero Tolerance, Zero Evidence: An Analysis of School Disciplinary Practice. (Bloomington, IN: Indiana Education Policy Center, Indiana University, 2001)

[7] Catherine Kim, Daniel Losen and Damon Hewit. The School to Prison Pipeline: Structuring Legal Reform (NY: New York University Press. 2010.)

[8] Barbara Raymond. Assigning Police Officers to Schools; Problem-Oriented Guides for Police Response Guides Series Guide No. 10. (Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, Inc. Washington D.C. 2010)

[9] L.A. Addington,“Cops and cameras: Public school security as a policy response to Columbine.” (American Behavioral Scientist. 2009) 52:10 143; Thomas A. Birkland and Regina Lawrence.  “Media Framing After Columbine” (American Behavioral Scientist 20090 52; 1387; Frymer, B. (2009). The media spectacle of Columbine: alienated youth as an object of fear. (American Behavioral Scientist 2009 52) 1387

[10] Barbara Raymond. Assigning Police Officers to Schools; Problem-Oriented Guides for Police Response Guides Series Guide No. 10. (Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, Inc. Washington D.C. 2010)

[11]Justice Policy Institute. Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools, (Washington D.C. 2011); Chongmin Na and Denise C. Gottfredson “Police Officers in Schools: Effects on School Crime and the Processing of Offending Behaviors”, Justice Quarterly. (2011)

[12] Thomas A. Birkland and Regina Lawrence.  “Media Framing After Columbine” (American Behavioral Scientist 2009 52; 1387)

[13] Catherine Kim, Daniel Losen and Damon Hewit. The School to Prison Pipeline: Structuring Legal Reform (NY: New York University Press. 2010.)

[14] The Schott Foundation for Public Education. The Urgency of Now:  50 State Report on Black Males and Education. (Cambridge, Mass. 2012)

[15] NAACP.  Interrupting the School to Prison Pipe-line. (Washington DC. 2005).

[16] Advancement Project. Federal Policy, ESEA Reauthorization, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline. (Washington, D.C. 2011).

[17] Advancement Project. Federal Policy, ESEA Reauthorization, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline. (Washington, D.C. 2011); Eric Eckholm, “With Police in Schools, More Children in Court” (New York Times April 12. 2013) ; Justice Policy Institute. Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools, (Washington D.C. 2011)

[18] Advancement Project. Test Punish and Push –Out: How “Zero Tolerance” and High–Stakes  Testing Funnel Youth Into the School-to-Prison Pipeline. (Washington D.C. 2010.); Sasha Polakow-Suransky, “America’s Least Wanted: Zero Tolerance Policies and the Fate of Expelled Students”. In The Public Assault on America’s Children: Poverty, Violence and Juvenile Justice. edited by Valerie Polakow. 101-39. (New York: Teacher’s College Columbia University. 2001.)

[19] Advancement Project. Federal Policy, ESEA Reauthorization, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline. (Washington, D.C. 2011).

[20] National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education, (Washington D.C. 2012)

[21] Advancement Project. Federal Policy, ESEA Reauthorization, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline. (Washington, D.C. 2011); Justice Policy Institute. Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools, (Washington D.C. 2011); Kathleen Nolan, Police in the Hallways: Discipline in an Urban High School, (Minneapolis, MN:  University of Minnesota Press. 2011)

[22] Chongmin Na and Denise C. Gottfredson “Police Officers in Schools: Effects on School Crime and the Processing of Offending Behaviors”, Justice Quarterly. (2011)

[23]  Advancement Project. Testimony of Judith A. Browne Dianis Co-Director, Advancement Project Hearing on Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline Before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, Senate Committee on the Judiciary. (Washington, DC, Wednesday, December 12, 2012); Justice Policy Institute. Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools, (Washington D.C. 2011)

[24] Ibid.

[25] American Academy of Pediatrics.  “Out-of-School Suspension and Expulsion” Pediatrics. (2013); American Psychological Association. Are Zero Tolerance Policies Effective in the Schools?  An   Evidentiary Review and Recommendations. (Washington DC: APA. 2006); Chtirtopher Wildeman. “Parental Imprisonment, the Prison Boom, and the Concentration of Childhood Disadvantage.” (Demography 2009) 46: 268-272

[26] Advancement Project. Education on Lockdown: The School to Jailhouse Track, (Washington,   D.C. 2005); Richard Arum and Doreet Preiss. “From Brown to Bong ‘Hits’: Assessing a Half Century of Judicial Involvement in Education” American Enterprise Institute for Policy Research. (October 15 2008); Kathleen Nolan, Police in the Hallways: Discipline in an Urban High School, (Minneapolis, MN:  University of Minnesota Press. 2011)

[27] Advancement Project. Test Punish and Push –Out: How “Zero Tolerance” and High–Stakes Testing Funnel Youth Into the School-to-Prison Pipeline. (Washington, D.C. 2010); Howard Witt “School Discipline Tougher on African Americans”. (Chicago Tribune. September 5 2007).

[28] Tamar Lewin,. “Black Students Face More Discipline, Data Suggests”. (New York Times March 6 2012)

[29]Ibid.; Advancement Project. Test Punish and Push –Out: How “Zero Tolerance” and High–Stakes Testing Funnel Youth Into the School-to-Prison Pipeline. (Washington D.C. 2010).

[30] Eric Eckholm. “With Police in Schools, More Children in Court” (New York Times April 12. 2013).

[31] Daniel J. Losen and Jonathan Gillispie. Opportunities Suspended: The Disparate Impact of Disciplinary Exclusion from School. The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at The Civil Rights Project. (August 2012); The Schott Foundation for Public Education. The Urgency of Now:  50 State Report on Black Males and Education. (Cambridge, Mass. 2012)

[32] Advancement Project. Testimony of Judith A. Browne Dianis Co-Director, Advancement Project Hearing on Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline Before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, Senate Committee on the Judiciary. (Washington, DC, Wednesday, December 12, 2012); Justice Policy Institute. Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools, (Washington D.C. 2011).

[33] Patricia Leigh Brown, “Opening Up, Students Transform a Vicious Circle”, (New York Times April 3 2013); Prison Culture, “A Different Approach to School Safety: A Short Film”, (April 12 2013);  Urban Strategies Council, African American Male Achievement Initiative: A closer look at suspensions of African American males in OUSD, (Oakland CA May 2012)

[34] Advancement Project. Testimony of Judith A. Browne Dianis Co-Director, Advancement Project Hearing on Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline Before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, Senate Committee on the Judiciary. (Washington, DC, Wednesday, December 12, 2012)

[35]Ibid.; Advancement Project.  Police in School is not the Answer to the Newton Shootings (Washington, D.C. 2013) Justice Policy Institute. Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools, (Washington D.C. 2011); Catherine Kim, Daniel Losen and Damon Hewit. The School to Prison Pipeline: Structuring Legal Reform (NY: New York University Press. 2010.)

[36] Advancement Project.  Police in School is not the Answer to the Newton Shootings (Washington, D.C. 2013)

 

7 comments
ahlevin
ahlevin

"If you live long enough, you'll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you'll be a better person. It's how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit."

William J. Clinton

I guess Clinton was not referring to the mistakes that minors can and will make, since the zero tolerance policy began during his administration. 


The policy ignores valuable life learning opportunities for a child.  The educational system, before the zero tolerance policy, had the opportunity to extend education beyond academics and teach children how to become better human beings by learning from their mistakes.  The zero tolerance policy ignores a child's need for compassion, understanding and common sense.      

Socioeconomic and environmental factors play a significant role in a child’s development.  If this is lacking at home or in a child’s neighborhood, the school has  missed an opportunity to help a child become a productive member of society.  The zero tolerance policy only reinforces what the child understands from his/her experiences outside of school, you are not worth a second chance.

Richard Lyon
Richard Lyon

The crime wave in schools was pretty much a media created event. I remember some studies that explored the law and order craze in comparing the attitudes of residents in innercity areas with higher crime rates with those of people in suburbs where the rates were very low. The people in the cities tended to have an approach that enabled them to get on with their daily lives without major anxiety about it. It was the people in the suburbs whose only contact with crime was the evening news and maybe a spot of fudging on their taxes who were flipping out. They tended to be in a panic over the black tide of violence that was coming to uproot their rose bushes and gawd knows what else. 


We now have the problem of six year old boys being labeled sexual predators because they kissed a six year old girl on the cheek. Meanwhile the schools are covering up the real sexual assault. It is all completely crazy. 

nancy a heitzeg
nancy a heitzeg moderator

@Richard Lyon  sorry to be so slow here richard.. glitches :/ but yes -- exactly.. :Super-predators: and all the rest

Seeta
Seeta moderator

@Richard Lyon  Thanks Richard -- Nancy is having computer trouble tonight but will be on later once resolved.  


Thanks to Nancy for this incredible, amazingly sourced piece.

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