Zero Tolerance Policy

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The zero tolerance policy strives to reduce violence in schools and make schools a safer place for students. Anne Atkinson, a member of the Virginia Board of Education defines zero tolerance as a “policy that mandates predetermined consequences or punishments for specified offenses.” The policy first became effective in 1989, but grew most rapidly in 1994 when the Gun- Free Schools Act was passed (1). There are many controversies about the zero tolerance policy including whether or not the policy is effective in reducing violence in schools, whether or not schools are trying to handle disciplinary actions in a fair manner, and whether or not all students are treated equally when punishments are determined. While many supporters, such as school administration, believe that the zero tolerance policy is necessary in schools, those who oppose the policy, such as parents, believe that the policy is unfair and ineffective in schools.

Those who support the zero tolerance policy believe that the policy is effective in reducing violence in school. Atkinson argues that “strict policies are needed to send a clear message and are designed to protect students” (2). Agreeing with Atkinson, Richard Curwin and Allen Mendler, scholars on the zero tolerance policy, believe that by using the zero tolerance policies, it is evident to students that aggressive behavior is unacceptable. By allowing the students to realize that misbehavior will not be tolerated, students become more likely to obey the rules and cooperate with schools (1). According to the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence (NCCEV), 17.1% of students carried weapons at school and 71% of elementary and secondary schools have experienced at least one violent crime by a student. A nationwide survey suggested that 15% of students have been involved in a physical fight on school grounds. By using the zero tolerance policy, those students who are violent in school are expelled or suspended, resulting...
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