Zero Tolerance Policy with Students of Minority
School safety concerns have been on the rise in recent years. In 1990 a new rule was implemented into public school systems. This rule is called the zero tolerance policy and means schools must use consistent harsh punishment for the breaking of a set list of rules. These punishments usually involved either suspension or expulsion from the school. No matter what the circumstances were, the student must receive a punishment. Many critics call this rule “one strike, you’re out.” The zero tolerance policy is discriminatory because students of minority status are statistically proven to be looked at as more mature and responsible for their actions compared to a white student and students of minority are proven to have grade point averages therefore the policy is causing these students to fall behind even more when they are punished so harshly. The zero tolerance policy needs to be banned from all public schools for these reasons.
One young hispanic student did an innocent act in her class but was arrested for it. According to Farnel Maxime from Shared Justice of 2018, “In 2010, 12-year-old Alexa Gonzalez wrote ‘I love my friends Abby and Faith’ and ‘Lex was here 2/1/10’ on her desk in Spanish class with erasable marker. The school deemed these markings as vandalism, and as a result, Alexa was handcuffed, arrested, and detained at a New York City Police Department precinct in Queens. Several hours passed before she was released. While extreme, cases like Alexa’s are not rare; students all over the country face disciplinary procedures that deliver harsh predetermined punishments, rather than focusing on restorative practices.” The student didn’t even write anything wrong on the desk and it wasn’t in a permanent marker. It easily could have been erased with the wipe of a finger. The school claimed it was “vandalism” when vandalism is the action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property. The erasable maker didn’t cause any damage to the desk; therefore, it was uncalled for to have the student be taken away in handcuffs at the age of twelve. She could have just been talked to by the school faculty, diffusing the situation. This is just one story of a situation with the zero tolerance policy involving a minority and being blown out of proportion.
Zero tolerance policies have been proven to discriminate against minority students, mostly African Americans and Hispanics. According to German Lopen from Vox of 2018, “The report found that black students in K-12 schools are far more likely to be disciplined — whether through suspension or referral to law enforcement — than their counterparts of other races…A 2014 study, for example, found that people generally view black boys as older and less innocent starting at the age of 10. Another study released in 2017 produced similar results, finding that Americans overall view black girls as less innocent and more mature for their age, from ages 5 to 14. Survey respondents were more likely to say that black girls, compared to white girls, needless nurturing, less protection, to be supported less, to be comforted less, are more independent, know more about adult topics, and know more about sex. The researchers described this as the “adultification” of black girls.” This study shows that racism can make white Americans view African Americans as more responsible for their actions than white people. These black students are seen as less innocent and in turn are punished in a harsher manner than the white student. Although the rule of zero tolerance policy states that every student will be punished for their actions, the facility will be more likely to turn a blind eye to the white student as they are “more innocent.”
Students of minority status have been proven to have lower grade point averages than white students. According to Samantha Lindsay from PrepScholar of 2018, white students in America have an average grade point average of 3.09 while African American students have an average of 2.69 and hispanics have an average of 2.84. If school are taking them out of the classroom with the zero tolerance policy then we are causing them to get behind on their academics, in turn making it even harder to get better grades. This causes these students to be less motivated in school, not able to focus in class and not able to have a good relationship with their school faculty.
Some of the positives of the zero tolerance policy include laying out clear disciplinary expectations for each student, giving kids accountability for their actions, and a better climate for classmates. The American Psychological Association reports that parents ‘overwhelmingly support the implementation of zero tolerance policies to ensure the safety of schools and students even feel safer knowing that these behaviors will be dealt with quickly in no uncertain terms.’ The parents believe their children are kept away from the bad and all is well. While keeping our schools safe is a shared goal, zero-tolerance policies actually make that goal harder to reach and can have even worse side effects. The Juvenile Law Center says, “Late last year, the York Dispatch described how two ten-year-olds were suspended after one used a folder as a fake gun to ‘shoot’ at his friend, who retaliated by pretending to aim a bow and arrow” (2). The real result of these policies is not safer schools, but unfavorable effects, such as severe disruption of students’ academic progress in ways that have lasting negative consequences. If students are taken out of their learning environment for not doing anything to harm the students around them it’s not necessary to take such harsh action making the situation so much worse than it needs to be.
The zero tolerance policy has been shown to be unfair to students of minority and is all around a poor practice. It punishes student’s way too harsh for small actions and also damages student-faculty connection making students have less and less motivation to perform well in school when students of minority already statistically don’t perform as well in school as a white student. To add to that, students of minority are statistically proven to be looked at as more mature and responsible for their actions compared to a white student and students of minority are proven to have grade point averages therefore the policy is causing these students to fall behind even more when they are punished so harshly. The zero tolerance policy needs to be banned from all public schools for these reasons. Every student in America deserves an equal and fair education no matter their background. What if this policy discriminated against the white student? This would have never been set into place if that was the case.
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