The Imperfection of the Zero Tolerance Policy

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Data related to student delinquency rates indicate that an increase in delinquency is not associated with improving behavior. Deviant behavior continues to occur in students regardless of whether they are suspended. Suspensions have been on the rise over the past 20 years, and only in some individual districts have they begun to decline due to the implementation of restorative justice. The disappointing statistics (2.8 million suspensions for the 2013-2014 school year) show the need for new classifications of student offenses and other reinstatement programs (Layton). In addition, suspensions are at least odd for reasons such as delay and failure to adhere to the dress code, which continue to be placed in the same category as bringing guns to schools. The zero-tolerance policy adopted violates students’ rights to a supportive legal environment and state support. Records show that about 100,000 school crimes were turned over to police departments (Layton). All of this points to the imperfection of zero tolerance.

Zero-tolerance builds on the basic principle of obedience: removing the naughty will create a good classroom climate. However, the evidence is quite contradictory: it is reported that, more often than not, it leads to an even more significant destabilization of the classroom microclimate. In addition, students are becoming less interested in seeking help from teachers and school counselors because they see legal injustices (including racial and sexist ones) as examples of suspensions. It is reliably known that breaks reduce the orderliness of the school structure and reduce the overall intellectual progress of classes (Wall Street Journal 00:01:28-00:01:40). Based on this, it can accurately be argued that zero tolerance is not a working tool. Social development indicators in schools, on the contrary, suffer because it is imperfect.

Pipeline to Prison and the Racist Connection

Suspension is one of the predictors of going to prison or committing offenses outside the school zone of responsibility. It probably has to do with how the psychological attitudes of deviant behavior influence future behavioral patterns that are formed because of the number of suspensions. Layton’s article argues that suspensions often trigger and provoke students to commit more destructive behaviors. Stable suspensions for minor transgressions (such as previously discussed, delay, and failure to follow the dress code) cause students to stop perceiving schools as severe institutions where they learn critical skills (Layton). In addition, the school is not recognized as a source of justice, and students are not interested in continuing their academic pursuits (Ellis 51). Ultimately, embarrassed by their lack of education due to absences from classes and their failure to develop social skills with others, students see school as a barrier to a good life. Perhaps this problem would be solved by treating each case more carefully, but the court in the U.S. is based on experienced jurisdiction.

Zero-tolerance policies hinder the development of an equal society and often exacerbate inequality. It can be seen in the examples of how black students are punished more often and disabled students are not supported. Some studies, including Layton herself, indicate that white students receive more support and chances of recovery than students of color (Ellis 53). While statistics across the country suggest that blacks are more likely to commit crimes, the presumption of innocence is absent because of systemic racism. The lack of support for black students in schools and their introduction into recovery programs contribute to racism because a huge social unit is excluded from the narrative.

Solution of the Problem

The zero policy reforms aim to change teachers’ and educators’ perceptions of children’s misbehavior and deviant behavior. In addition, the term “deviant behavior” requires revision because zero policy uses it even in cases of a loud child crying (Wall Street Journal 00:01:00-00:01:12). Such cases are neither misdemeanors nor serious misdemeanors. In this regard, reforms are related to developing strategies to restore relationships with students and their parents. Layton cites the opinion of Morgan Craven, who believes that there are more lenient punishments that will not lead children down the pipeline to prison (Layton). She is interested in developing a new system of relationships between children and teachers: perceptions of misbehavior must change because, at the moment, they are based on prejudice (Layton). Another researcher, Archie Mocc, believes that rebuilding relationships is possible through a system of time-outs and parent-teacher conferences that will allow for a better understanding of children.


Many schools in the U.S. are also moving to reduce police involvement in dealing with school conflicts. First and foremost, it is about misconduct and creating situations that aren’t the most dangerous. Of course, the carrying of weapons or the intentional use of physical/psychological violence is an issue that transcends school regulation (Layton). However, many other cases must remain outside of police intervention. The Wall Street Journal video shows views on dealing with typical deviant problems: e.g., crying, and increased activity. For example, Cirasuolo suggests that young children should not be suspended altogether because it drastically reduces their social potential (Wall Street Journal 00:01:50-00:02:05). Instead, he tells developing unique systems to get “problem” children out of classes and change the perception of children’s disobedience to rules.

Works Cited

“Connecticut Rethinks School Suspensions”. YouTube, uploaded by Wall Street Journal, 2015, Web.

Ellis, Mary. “Nancy A. Heitzeg: The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Education, Discipline, and Racialized Double Standards”. Adolescent Research Review, 2, 2017, pp. 49–54. Web.

Layton, Julia. “U.S. Public Schools Are Suspending Millions of Students, With Little Reward”. HowStuffWorks, 2017. Web.

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1. PsychologyWriting. "The Imperfection of the Zero Tolerance Policy." March 17, 2023.


PsychologyWriting. "The Imperfection of the Zero Tolerance Policy." March 17, 2023.