Study says zero tolerance disciplinary policies are not making schools safer or less disruptive

The Vera Institute of Justice (VIJ) has issued a report, says mlive, that found that zero tolerance policies are having little to no effect on student classroom behavior. The report states: “No studies show that an increase in out-of-school suspension and expulsion reduces disruption in the classroom and some evidence suggests the opposite effect.”

In the report, VIJ cites research indicating that school suspensions double the chances a student will repeat a grade.  The report also points out that zero tolerance policies have a disproportionate effect on minority students, noting “black and Latino students are suspended and expelled at much higher rates than white students.”

Based on its research and other data findings, the report concludes zero tolerance policies “have no real benefit and significant adverse effects.”  In addition, the report contends that such policies “push students out of school [and] can have life-long negative effects, perhaps severely limiting a young person’s future potential.”

Source: mlive, 1/2/14, By Brian Smith

[Editor's Note: VIJ's report, "What We’ve Learned about Zero Tolerance in Schools" seeks to answer the following questions: 

How do these policies that mandate specific and harsh punishments affect individual and the overall school environment? Have zero tolerance policies helped to create a school-to-prison pipeline as many people argue? And if the costs outweigh the benefits are there alternatives to zero tolerance that are more effective?

In August 2012, Legal Clips summarized an article in The Washington Post reporting that the Maryland Board of Education had preliminarily approved regulations intended to reduce suspensions, keep students in class, and create a less punitive environment in public schools.  In June 2012, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Detroit Free Press reporting that the Michigan State Board of Education approved a resolution that called on school districts to rethink their zero tolerance policies as part of an effort to reduce the number of students who are being suspended or expelled for incidents that are not covered under state law.]

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