Thursday, August 11, 2011

CDF's Marian Wright Edelman: Zero tolerance policies are a failing idea

In her "Child Watch" column, Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund draws attention to an exceptionally timely topic -- the over-reliance on counterproductive zero tolerance policies and the resulting school-to-prison pipeline. In addition to Edelman's column, we encourage you to learn more about this issue by visiting the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice's "Redirecting the School to Prison Pipeline" project.

Marian Wright Edelman's Child Watch® Column: 
Zero Tolerance Discipline Policies: A Failing Idea
Release Date: August 5, 2011

Many school children in America are on summer break right now, but here’s a pop quiz about discipline policies in our nation’s schools that’s just for grownups:

Would you suspend a student from school for four months for sharpening his pencil without permission and giving the teacher a “threatening” look when asked to sit down?

Would you expel a student from school for the rest of a school year for poking another student with a ballpoint pen during an exam?

Would you expel a student from school permanently because her possession of an antibiotic violated your school’s zero-tolerance drug policy?

Would you call the police, handcuff, and then expel a student who started a snowball fight on school grounds?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions because they sounded too unfair to be the result of an actual policy, give yourself a failing grade. All four are real examples of zero tolerance school discipline policies in Massachusetts—and there are thousands of stories like these throughout that state and across the country. Suspended and expelled students are at greater risk of dropping out of school and dropping into the prison pipeline, and using automatic suspensions and expulsions for minor infractions often has a major negative effect on a child’s entire future.

Read the rest of Edelman's column here.

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