The Zero Tolerance Policy at schools idea is yet another example of stupid administrators taking repression to extremes.

Recent abuses of ZTP in the news include:

  • A Valedictorian who was suspended (and missed her graduation) because she accidently left a kitchen knife on her car seat after it fell out of a packing box while moving.
  • Three students who were suspended for sharing Certs mints; likewise, students have been punished for asprin and cough drops. (Likewise, legal prescription drugs are prohibited, even with a doctor's note!)
  • A student who was expelled for preventing a classmate from committing suicide by hiding their knife and then informing a teacher.
  • A student who shared her inhaler with a fellow student having an asthma attack.
  • A student who was expelled for bringing a butter knife in his lunch.
  • An elementary student suspended for coming to a school Halloween party in a firefighter's costume including a plastic ax.
  • A student suspended and threatened with expulsion for bringing a nail clipper.
  • As pointed out by some softlinkers, there have been multiple instances of students suspended for harmless items mistaken for weapons (food, files, hands shaped like guns, drawn guns, etc.) This is just silly!
  • A son in high school who was suspended for 3 days (reduced from 5!) for answering a cell phone call during lunch from his mother in Iraq on the week before Mother's day. (That's a real nice way to treat our troops! Thanks stupid adminsitrators!)
The problem with ZTP is that it does not take into consideration either extenuating circumstances, context, severity, or intent. Frequently, enforcement of ZTP doesn't even verify the event occured. It does not make the punishment fit the crime. It isn't justice, and it ignores any possible due process.

ZTP is a purely reactionary measure that punishes good behavior along with bad behavior. It's more of a shoot first and don't bother asking any questions kind of thing. ZTP policies teach students a very skewed view on justice, which I find disgusting in an educational environment in our democratic society.

Indiana University released a study called "Zero Tolerance, Zero Evidence" which concluded that ZTP measures are used far too often and with little long term effect. Police officers, school board superintendents, and even the American Bar Association have criticized ZTP. Despite this, school administrators insist on continuing their use of it, either because they are afraid to use their own judgement or it is just easier not to.

The correct solution is to think, consider each case on its own merits, and make the punishment fit the situation. A zero tolerance policy does none of these. It's just another sound bite to make people feel good.