Unfinished Business

Reassessing Zero-Tolerance Policies in Schools

This is a good sign

Now, in many areas, efforts are underway to find a more calibrated approach to school discipline. Educators are increasingly focused on the fallout of suspensions, which are linked to lower academic achievement and students dropping out.

In Delaware, for example, zero-tolerance cases were a repeated issue in the Christina School District, where a 6-year-old with a camping utensil that included a knife was suspended in 2009. Discipline procedures were revamped last year, giving administrators the discretion to consider a student’s intent and grade, as well as the risk of harm. Out-of-school suspensions in the state’s largest school system fell by one-third in a year.

“It’s a more child-centered approach,” said Wendy Lapham, a spokeswoman for the Christina schools.

…particularly if, in reassessing these policies to make them more “child-centered,” schools begin to look at the racially and economically discriminatory way that disciplinary policies have been used, which the Washington Post article doesn’t address.

Because the truth is that the children that have borne the brunt of these policies are minorities, low-income students, and students with disabilities, despite the fact that these children are not necessarily more violent or disruptive than other students.