A push to remove the zero tolerance policy

March 30, 2014, 2:02 p.m. | By Temi Ibirogba | 10 years ago

A policy that has been exercised for years is harming education

Imagine being a 15 year old girl in a new school. It's freshman year and you are going to roam the hallways of the same building for the next four years. Many parents give their children the same advice: "don't let anyone push you around." And although this doesn't necessarily condone violence, it's a parent's way of telling their child to always stand up for themselves.

And it's good advice. If you are planning on attending the same school throughout your high school experience, you want to make sure that other students know not to walk all over you. You're strong willed and won't take bullying. All ideas needed in the real world. You're walking down the hallway and another student bumps into you. First thought: "Oh it's fine, it was a mistake, they weren't paying attention." But then the same person that just crashed into you says something: an insulting comment that boils your blood enough that you throw a punch.

We've all seen the videos that fill the internet. Whether it's over a boy or someone you thought was your friend spreading rumors, fights happen, people make mistake, situations get out of hand. Every couple of weeks, our twitter and Instagram timelines explode with the latest clips of a young boy or girl getting punched in the face by a classmate. We gasp, laugh a little, retweet and forget about.

After you throw the punch, a teacher gets involved and tries to break up the fight: normal procedure. But then a crowd forms around and the unsuspecting peacemaker is soon knocked to the ground and trampled. This is exactly what happened to a 15 year old (whose name has been not been released for privacy reasons) of Dorchester County in Baltimore.

Like Sharkeisha and every other fight, many forget about it and move on. But that�s the problem. The punishments given to these students exercise the zero tolerance policy that kept that 15 year old girl from Baltimore out of school for a full year.

She was expelled and according to the Baltimore Sun , "given homework assignments after her mother called to complain about a lack of work. The state board wrote in its opinion that there was "no follow up, no grading, no interaction between the educators and the student for a full year." Since there is no public outcry, the policy is exercised freely, beginning a nasty cycle.

Once a student is expelled, there are two paths they can take. One is to reevaluate their life decisions and stay out of trouble so that another suspension or expulsion will not happen again. The second is to continue down that same path: it doesn't seem like the school system cares whether I'm in school or not since they already expelled, so who cares?

According to Alexi Nunn Freeman, "Harsh discipline in general has been to shown to make students feel less connected to their school and to strain their relationships with teachers and school staff.'" She adds, "When that happens, [students] are more likely to engage in violent behavior, alcohol and substance abuse - risky type behaviors." In the state of Maryland, 0.31 percent of students expelled are African-American while 0.27 are Hispanic compared to the 0.08 percent of white students who are expelled according to the National Center for Education Statistics . This raises an issue of an even more increased education gap between minorities and other students.

Montgomery County and others in the Washington area have observed "the fallout of suspensions, which are linked to lower academic achievement and students dropping out" according to the Washington Post.

School districts are rightfully moving towards policies that practice prevention rather than harsh consequences. One of these methods is the positive behavior support which works to, "to give schools capacity-building information and technical assistance for identifying, adapting, and sustaining effective school-wide disciplinary practices."

Schools in Montgomery County are some of the 14,000 in the country working to exercise this idea of increased tolerance and adapting to the situation. Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, rightfully stated, "it's become evident that simply suspending students and putting them on the street comes back and bites you."

While it's important to discipline youth and teach right and wrong, the methods used to do this are even more important. If these new methods are successful, hopefully one day they will be seen not only in Montgomery County but in schools across the country as well.

Last updated: April 23, 2021, 1:17 p.m.

Tags: Alexi Nunn Freeman Bob Wise

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