The School Community - Free Essay Sample

Published: 2023-11-26
The School Community - Free Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Policy Violence School Drug abuse
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1136 words
10 min read


Zero tolerance is referred to as "suspension and expulsion policies set up in response to school-based weapons, drugs and violence acts happening in the school surrounding (National Association of School Psychologists) (NASP), 2001; Nelson et al., 2013, p. 323). Concerns about school violence increased the use of disciplinary action in the 1990s and increased development of zero tolerance policies nationwide (Ruiz, 2017, P. 803). The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1990, "The Original Zero Tolerance Policy," was a response to Violence in Schools" (Nelson et al., 2013; Bocanfasso & Kuhfeld, 2011, p. 1). Its primary focus was if a student brought a gun to school, it could lead to expulsion; however, it focused on more violations with time. (Nelson et al., 2013, p. 323)

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In theory, the advantage of zero-tolerance policies is that students, parents, teachers, and administrators feel more secure at school. Advocates of zero tolerance policies often find that harsh and reassuring punishment prevents negative behavior, resulting in favorable learning (Nelson et al., 2013). However, "there is no evidence that removing students from school is beneficial to school security" (NASP, 2001).

Twenty years after the Gun-Free Schools Act, Boccanfuso and Kuhfeld case studies on school suspensions indicate that most suspensions are not related to violent crime (2011, p. 3). In fact, since the beginning of 2001, research has shown that "zero-tolerance policies are ineffective in the long run, and are connected to negative consequences such as discriminatory practices of school discipline practices and school dropout (NASP, 2001). Zero tolerance policies did not work out as envisioned; however, they are still in use.

Discouraging Behavior

I believe the concept of zero tolerance policies was created with good intentions, but we have very little to do with things like discouraging behavior and keeping students safe. In my mind, Zero Tolerance policies are designed to promote a fair and balanced disciplinary system that ensures a safe learning environment for all students. However, instead of taking a pragmatic approach, society has adopted policies of intolerance. I feel that zero-tolerance systems have become a burden due to the disproportionate and interpretive nature and often unnecessarily alienate students from the learning environment.

State legislators require fifteen states to suspend students for physical abuse; according to federal law, schools in all 50 states should expel students with guns on school property (Nelson et al., 2013; Ruiz, 2017). In Connecticut, the law says expulsion depends on crime and grade level. In prekindergarten, expulsion can only occur when "there is reason to believe that the student possessed a firearm." In grades kindergarten through two, "if there is reason to believe the student engaged in conduct involving weapons or illegal drugs," but are not permitted under any other circumstances (Wentzell, 2017, pg. 23). However, in grades three through twelve, a student can only be expelled “if there is reason to believe the student engaged in conduct involving weapons or illegal drugs” and permitted “if reason to believe that the student’s conduct meets certain criteria” (Wentzell, 2017, pg. 23). Furthermore, in my research, I found that most deportations in Connecticut (51.2%) were caused by weapons or drug/alcohol/tobacco offenses, with a small majority for other offenses (Wentzell, 2017, p. 14). These crimes include: fighting / battery (14.7%), other - property damage, sexual harassment, theft, violent crime (11.7%), school policy violations (11%), bullying (8.4%), physical / verbal confrontation (3.1%); totally to 48.8% (Wentzell, 2017, p. 14). This means that half of the state's expulsions are due to subjective crime, and schools are not subject to the zero-tolerance policy intended to be enforced.

Lack of Support

Over time, schools and policymakers have begun to implement various policies that expand the concept of zero tolerance. The benefit of enduring guns and violence is that everyone in the school has a strong awareness of the consequences of violating this policy. Unfortunately, students of color and people with disabilities are more severely punished when they behave negatively, like their peers (Nelson et al., 2013). When applying the Zero Tolerance approach, students of color are often targeted. Due to this policy's lack of support, these students were expelled and imprisoned at a higher rate than their peers. In Connecticut, only 52% of black and Hispanic students were expelled during the 2016–2017 school year, standing at 68% of the 2016-2017 school year (Wentzell, 2017, p. 16). Also, Zero Tolerance discriminates against students with emotional, learning disabilities, or behavioral disorders (Henson, 2012). Some exercises performed by students with disabilities are beyond their control (Alnaim, 2018, p. 1). Although only 11% of students in Connecticut are found to have a disability, they make up 24% of the excluded students, and the vast majority of these students are colored regardless.

Zero tolerance policies in schools are ineffective in preventing negative behavior due to the negative consequences, dropout rates, subsequent suspensions, reduced academic performance, and graduation (Boccanfash & Kuhfeld, 2011, p. 2). Data show that suspended or expelled students do not change their behavior and have long-term adverse effects. For instance, students suspended in the middle or high school mostly do not graduate on time or even graduate at all (Boccanfuso, 2011). Zero Tolerance Policies are an essential contribution to the pipeline from school to prison (Ruiz, 2017, p. 803).


Students carrying guns or committing violence should be suspended or expelled, but I agree to be prudent. I believe that expulsion or school suspension should not be used on distracting or disruptive behavior. However, students who regularly commit serious and dangerous acts should be given more severe consequences. If a student behaves consistently in unruly actions, a fundamental problem needs to be addressed, and often punishments will make the situation worse. Also, implementing the PBIS and Recovery Practice Program may be beneficial to these recurring offenders because suspending them from their activities will not help their learning or education. I hope that alternative programs such as Boccanfuso and Kuhfeld (2011) state meditation can allow struggling students to learn from their mistakes as they make positive contributions to their health and community.


Alnaim, M. (2018). The impact of a zero-tolerance policy on children with disabilities. World Journal of Education, 8(1), 1-5. Retrieved from

Boccanfuso, C., & Kuhfeld, M. (2011, March). Multiple responses, promising results: Evidence-based, nonpunitive alternatives to zero-tolerance [PDF]. Retrieved from

National Association of School Psychologists. (2001). Zero tolerance and alternative strategies: A fact sheet for educators and policymakers. Retrieved from

Nelson, J. L., Palonsky, S. B., & McCarthy, M. R. (2013). Critical issues in education: Dialogues and dialectics (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Ruiz, R. (2017). School-to-prison pipeline: An evaluation of zero-tolerance policies and their alternatives. Houston Law Review, 54(3), 803-838. Retrieved from

Wentzell, D. R. (2017, December 6). Understanding School Expulsions in Connecticut (the United States, Connecticut State Board of Education, Commissioner of Education). Retrieved from

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