When parents and educators discuss school discipline, one of the things most often discussed is the “zero tolerance” policy. This term is often misused and misunderstood, according to a new study I recently published. While the law does not take into account mitigating circumstances, a DUI attorney can still represent and protect the legal rights of an accused person under a zero-tolerance law. They may also be able to review police procedures and the circumstances of an individual case to argue for a reduced sentence. In the “Kids for Cash” scandal, Judge Mark Ciavarella, who promoted a zero-tolerance platform, received bribes for building a private prison housing juvenile delinquents, then filled the prison by sentencing children to extended stays in juvenile detention for offenses as minimal as mocking a director on Myspace. Scuffles in the corridors, Entering an empty building. and Wal-Mart shoplifting DVDs. Critics of the zero-tolerance policy argue that harsh penalties for minor infractions are normal. The documentary Kids for Cash interviews teen behavior experts who argue that the zero-tolerance model became a dominant approach to youth crime surveillance after the Columbine shooting.
  The concept of zero-tolerance laws is “drinking illegally, driving illegally.” This means that, because it is illegal to drink alcohol before the age of 21, it should also be illegal for them to drive under the influence of a detectable amount of alcohol, no matter how small. The zero-tolerance policy is likely to receive more attention after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos repealed Obama-era policies aimed at reducing suspensions, especially among children of color. Some said the guidelines may have made things worse — and even contributed to school shootings — by discouraging schools from reporting problematic behavior. The lack of a broad presence of zero-tolerance measures is partly due to states enacting more laws that roll back exclusionary discipline and fewer laws requiring exclusionary approaches. Critics of the zero-tolerance policy also argue that the large number of students suspended and expelled from school has negative effects that can prevent them from completing high school. Students who experience suspension, deportation and arrest pay higher psychological and social costs, such as depression, suicidal thoughts, academic failure and the risk of imprisonment in adulthood. In a study by Forrest et al. (2000), psychologists found that one-third of juveniles in juvenile detention centres were diagnosed with depression shortly after incarceration.  In addition to being diagnosed with depression, many adolescents had suicidal thoughts (Gnau et al., 1997).  This article presents a case study of the innovative, multi-integrated systems approach of a juvenile court, where school systems can immediately access interventions to address the underlying causes of student disorder. It also examines the evidence for negative trends in zero-tolerance policies, concluding that a multi-integrated systems approach – understanding the reasons for a student`s disruptive behaviour – can improve students` academic and behavioural outcomes.
The zero-tolerance policy is important. In my opinion, however, it is important to look beyond zero tolerance. In general, almost half of suspensions are issued for less serious offences, such as defiance or disruption. Students are suspended for these violations, even though there is no zero tolerance requirement. Prior to the introduction of zero-tolerance laws, most states had drinking and driving laws, which generally set the legal limit for blood alcohol levels. These applied to all drivers, regardless of age. If a driver under the age of 21 had a blood alcohol level below 0.08%, they could still be charged with drinking or possessing alcohol by minors, but that would not automatically lead to drunk driving. By the late 1980s, a handful of states had passed such laws for crimes such as drugs or theft.
The passage of the federal Gun-Free Schools Act in 1994 led to the expansion of mandatory guidelines for the designation of firearms offenses to all states. A wider use of zero-tolerance approaches by schools for other crimes, such as tobacco and alcohol, soon followed. Disciplinary parents see zero-tolerance policies as a tool to fight corruption.  According to this argument, most of the agent`s attempts to promote bribes or other favours in exchange for leniency are clearly visible when the subjective judgment is not admissible. These measures are encouraged to prevent drug abuse and violence in schools. Critics say the zero-tolerance policy has led to penalties in schools that have been criticized as extremely unfair to students and teachers, especially in schools with poorly written policies. Therefore, critics describe these policies as a “zero-logic policy” because they treat adolescents as adults would be treated – or more severely, since children are rarely fully allowed to speak authoritatively in their own defense with adults. Many people have criticized the zero-tolerance policy, saying it is draconian, provides no benefit to anyone or no benefit, contributes to overcrowding in the criminal justice system, and/or disproportionately targets people of color, especially people of African American and Hispanic descent.  Critics of zero-tolerance policies in schools say they are part of a school-to-prison pipeline that overmonitors children with behavioral problems and treats their problems as criminal justice problems rather than educational and behavioral problems. Students who previously received brief school suspensions before the policies were implemented will now be referred to juvenile courts.  Like laws created to discourage minors from driving while intoxicated, these were designed to prevent dangerous or problematic behaviour.