Zero tolerance (schools)

Zero tolerance (schools)

In the United States and Canada, zero tolerance policies are applied in some schools and other education venues. These have proved controversial in that some of those penalized have claimed that their treatment is egregiously unfair.


A zero-tolerance policy is a policy of not having a tolerance for transgressions: any infraction of existing laws and regulations, regardless of mistakes, ignorance, or even extenuating circumstances, will be met with full punishment. The term may be used in general or with reference to a particular category of transgressions, e.g. a zero-tolerance policy towards alcohol use.

It is typically enacted by an organization (usually a school) against a particular action, or possession of something on organization-controlled property. Many schools have a zero-tolerance policy concerning drugs or weapons. For example, a student possessing or caught using drugs on school property governed by a zero-tolerance policy could immediately suffer the highest possible consequence for their actions. Many organizations avoid these policies because it binds those in authority to an action, regardless of circumstances. The policy must be written extremely explicitly or it may have negative consequences.

As of 2004 many publicized cases have sparked slight controversy with regards to (at least what some perceive as) irrationality of the policies. These cases include students being suspended or expelled for transgressions such as carrying Advil (a legal, non-prescription drug) in backpacks, keeping pocketknives (small utility knife) in cars, and carrying sharp tools outside of a "woodshop" classroom (where they are often required materials). In some jurisdictions, zero-tolerance policies have come into conflict with freedom of religion rules already in place allowing students to carry, for example, kirpans.

Most policies were enacted after the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. One well documented case took place in the Ashland, Oregon School district.


Supporters of zero tolerance policies claim that such policies are required to create an appropriate environment (Scaringi, 2008; Noguera, 1995). They also point to examples of persons in authority providing lax discipline in the past, with a resulting breakdown in order (for example, in a school environment) (Scaringi, 2001).

Some supporters also argue that the mass publicizing of examples of unfairness serves the schools' purpose by frightening students into conformity. They point to the millions of student acts and omissions each and every school day, only a small percentage of which prove to be unfairly penalized. (Noguera, 2007)

The policy assumption is that inflexibility is a deterrent because, no matter how or why the rule was broken, the fact that the rule was broken is the basis for the imposition of the penalty. This is intended as a behavior modification strategy, i.e. because those at risk know that it may operate unfairly, they may be induced to take even unreasonable steps to avoid breaking the rule. This is a standard policy in rule- and law-based systems around the world on "offenses" as minor as traffic violations to major health and safety legislation for the protection of employees, those living nearby and the environment. (Ghezzi, 2006)

Critics of zero tolerance policies frequently refer to cases where minor offenses have resulted in severe punishments (see above and, for example, [ Zero Tolerance Nightmares] Dead link|date=September 2008) and instead make schools more like a jail or a prison. Typical examples include the honor-roll student being expelled from school under a "no weapons" policy while in possession of nail clippers; or a distinguished longtime employee at a company who, despite an impeccable work record and compiling many honors, losing his job because he made a seemingly innocent remark to a female co-worker (e.g., "You look nice today"). [ [ Final Report, Bi Partisan Working Group on Youth Violence] 106th Congress, February 1996 Zero Tolerance Policy Report, American Bar Association]

However, some view zero tolerance policies as a tool to fight corruption (Takyi-Boadu, 2006). Under this argument, if subjective judgment is not allowed, most attempts by the authority person to encourage bribes and/or other favors in exchange for leniency are clearly visible.

Furthermore Zero Tolerance policies have been struck down by the courts as documented in the "Pensacola honor students win zero tolerance drug ruling" article of the AP/Bradenton Herald, Sept. 8, 1964 [ [ archives Sept. 2002 pt. III ] ] and by Departments of Education. [ "Rhode Island Officials Rule School Can't Censor Teen's Yearbook Photo" (1/19/2007)]

Some might argue that having a set of rigid rules serves as a way to limit the powers of the person doing enforcement, ensuring equal treatment for everyone. However, the evidence is that minority children are the most likely to suffer the negative consequences of zero tolerance (American Bar Association, 2006).

Such policies could conceivably be established to allow unchecked freedom for officers; in such cases the rules could be intentionally self-contradicting, unclear and/or otherwise impossible or implausible to obey.

Research evidence

"Zero Tolerance, Zero Evidence: An Analysis of School Disciplinary Practice" reports that there is no credible evidence that zero tolerance is effective. Furthermore, school suspension and expulsion result in a number of negative outcomes for both schools and students. [Russell J. Skiba [ Zero Tolerance, Zero Evidence: An Analysis of School Disciplinary Practice] Policy Research Report #SRS2 August, 2000]

ee also

*School discipline
*Zero tolerance
*School district drug policies



* American Bar Association. "Zero Tolerance Policy Report", 2001 []
* Cox, S. & J. Wade. (19980. "The Criminal Justice Network: An Introduction". New York: McGraw-Hill.
* Ghezzi, Patti. "Zero tolerance for zero tolerance" "Atlanta Constitution", March 20, 2006.
* Noguera, Pedro A. "Preventing and Producing Violence: A Critical Analysis of Responses to School Violence," "Harvard Educational Review", Summer 1995, pp. 189-212.
* Robinson, M. (2002). "Justice Blind? Ideals and Realities of American Criminal Justice". Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
* Scaringi, D. "Zero Tolerance Needed for Safe Schools." "St. Petersburg (FL) Times", June 24, 2001.
* Sherman, L., D., Gottfredson, D. MacKenzie, J. Eck, P. Reuter & S. Bushway. (1997). "Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn't, What's Promising." []
* Snider, Laureen. (2004) "Zero Tolerance Reversed: Constituting the Non-Culpable Subject in Walkerton" in "What is a Crime? Defining Criminal Conduct in Contemporary Canadian Society". Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, and Montreal: Laval University Press (French translation), 2004: 155-84.
* Takyi-Boadu, Charles. "On Zero-Tolerance Corruption not Province of Politicians." "The Ghanaian Chronicle", March 16, 2006.

External links

* [ "Losing my Tolerance for 'Zero Tolerance'"] article by journalist Randy Cassingham on Zero Tolerance
* [ Zero Intelligence] - Catalog and discussion
* [ ZT Nightmares] - Case studies
* [ Parents Against Zero Tolerance] - Discussion group

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно решить контрольную?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Zero tolerance (disambiguation) — Zero tolerance can refer to: * Zero tolerance in criminology * zero tolerance (schools), the rule enforcement policy in North American schools * Zero Tolerance (video game), a video game ** Beyond Zero Tolerance , intended as its sequel * Zero… …   Wikipedia

  • Safe Schools Act — The Safe Schools Act is an Ontario bill, implemented in 2000 to provide a definitive set of regulations for punishments that must be issued for students. The bill is often referred to as a zero tolerance policy, however the presence of mitigating …   Wikipedia

  • Anarchist schools of thought — Part of the Politics series on Anarchism …   Wikipedia

  • Toleration — and tolerance are terms used in social, cultural and religious contexts to describe attitudes and practices that prohibit discrimination against those practices or group memberships that may be disapproved of by those in the majority. Conversely …   Wikipedia

  • List of youth topics — NOTOC The following is a list of articled relates to youth.A*Activism *Adultism *Adultcentrism *Advertising to children * *Abortion *Alternative school * *Age of candidacy *Age of consent *Age of majority *Alternative schools *Authoritarianism… …   Wikipedia

  • List of youth rights topics — This is an incomplete list of articles that are relevant to youth rights, which can or may never satisfy any objective standard for completeness. Revisions and additions are welcome. A*Adultcentrism *Adultism *Age of candidacy *Age of consent… …   Wikipedia

  • Ely College — [[File: Ely College students in their new uniform, 2011 |center|220px]] Type Academy, Secondary Sixth Form College …   Wikipedia

  • literature — /lit euhr euh cheuhr, choor , li treuh /, n. 1. writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays. 2.… …   Universalium

  • Law, Crime, and Law Enforcement — ▪ 2006 Introduction Trials of former heads of state, U.S. Supreme Court rulings on eminent domain and the death penalty, and high profile cases against former executives of large corporations were leading legal and criminal issues in 2005.… …   Universalium

  • Columbine High School massacre — Staff and students evacuat …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”