What Does Zero Tolerance Mean?

Defining Zero Tolerance in Schools

Pistol in backpack
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Zero Tolerance: In schools, Zero Tolerance refers to the concept that certain types of disciplinary offenses will not be tolerated and automatically result in suspension or expulsion. In 1994, after horrific incidents of school violence like that which happened in Columbine, Colorado, the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 was passed, requiring all states to create laws mandating expulsion for students in possession of guns on school property.

Intent of Zero Tolerance in Schools:
The intent of Zero Tolerance policies is to promote an atmosphere of safety, to deter other students from committing similar actions and to recognize and provide assistance to students who show signs of being capable of widespread acts of violence.

Zero Tolerance policies also aim to protect potential perpetrators from being the victims of the bullying that some students, (like Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the students who committed the Columbine Massacre) point to as the reason for carrying out acts of school violence.

Criticism of Zero Tolerance of Schools:
According to an article in Education World, what may have been overlooked is that the Gun-Free Act has a provision allowing states to create laws providing superintendents to look at things on a case-by-case basis.

Numerous school districts have gone above and beyond the law and enacted rigid Zero Tolerance policies, calling for the same severe consequences for any number of different infractions, including possession of weapons, physical violence, verbal threats and other types of bullying.

Critics of Zero Tolerance policies argue that the inflexibility of some of these policies lack common sense.

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