Chicken Finger Wars:
A Discussion on School Zero Tolerance Policies
On April 20, 1999, in the small town of Littleton, Colorado, two high-school students named Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris committed one of the most gruesome and heinous school shootings to date. They carried out a meticulously planned assault on Columbine High School during the middle of the school day. The boys' original plan was to kill hundreds of their peers. Armed with guns, knives, and a multitude of bombs, the two boys walked the hallways and killed. At the end of the shooting spree twelve students, and one teacher were declared dead and the two shooters were found having committed suicide; 21 more students were injured during the boys' rampage. This became known as the "Columbine Massacre" and began a new age of school discipline.
The new school policies have come to be known as "Zero Tolerance Policies". The zero tolerance policy was a new policy implemented by a large majority of schools following the massacre. These policies established a harsh and un-forgiving system of punishment for students who broke school rules and those students who were perceived as a threat or as dangerous. In theory, these policies were fool proof and the only way to make schools safer. However, the whiplash of the implementation of these policies is now becoming evident. Suspension rates have sky rocketed, as have the number of expulsions nationwide. America's quality and safety of education is deteriorating. A quote-un-quote environment of fairness and safety has all but disappeared due to the severity and un-fairness of these policies. It is evident that these policies are not fool proof and do not keep everyone safe.(#6)
The abuses and flaws of Zero Tolerance Policies are evident in the news. Here are but a few examples of the abuse of Zero Tolerance Policies: A Valedictorian was suspended, because she accidently left a kitchen knife on her car seat after it fell out of a packing box while moving. She, in turn, missed her graduation. Three students were suspended for sharing Certs mints, other students from the same school have been suspended for sharing Aspirin and cough drops. One student was expelled for preventing a classmate from committing suicide by hiding their knife and then informing a teacher. Another student was suspended for sharing her inhaler with a fellow student who was having an asthma attack. A student was expelled because her mother packed a butter knife in her lunch. She was 10. Another elementary student was suspended for coming to a school Halloween party in a firefighter's costume which included a plastic ax. A student was suspended and threatened with expulsion for bringing nail clippers to school. And finally, a boy in high school was suspended for answering a phone call from his mother at lunch. She was currently stationed in Iraq and it was the week of Mothers Day.(#4) (NY Times)
Those were just a few of the numerous cases in which the Zero Tolerance Policy has been abused. So, are policies, such as, zero tolerance policies the only way to assure the safety of children all over America?(#2) Yes. "Studies by law enforcement agencies (including the FBI and Secret Service), think thank reports, safety summits, government decrees, and a minor industry that has developed around school safety, have yet to find [another way] to ensure students safety. (Ferrandino)" However the real question is: Should zero tolerance policies be reformed in order to assure the physical safety of students and make it safer for students to learn? Absolutely.
I believe that if we are suspending kindergarteners for playing with Lego's that have toy guns, which are no bigger than two-inches, there is obviously a problem with the policies schools are enforcing. I believe that zero tolerance policies are too severe and endanger the quality of education in American schools. They do keep children physically safe, but they make it inherently unsafe for...
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