Zero tolerance policies are a failure

Zero tolerance policies are a way for many high schools and middle schools to enforce ridiculous rules. It’s basically an excuse to not have to justify anything with logic. Personally, I prefer to call it rule internalization. I’ve described many instances in the past, but I will quickly repeat a hypothetical example I’ve already given.

Say a mother tells her daughter not to throw toys. Her daughter later throws a ball around while outside. Her mother then punishes her for breaking one of her rules. This is, of course, an absurd scenario. It is clear the reason for the rule was that throwing toys can result in damage to the toys, hurt people in the process, and cause damage to furniture/items in the house. However, because the rule was stated more broadly than that, it technically applied to all scenarios, even throwing a ball outside. The girl violated the rule, but not the reason for the rule.

This is an exaggeration and unlikely to happen except in the most redneck of homes, but it illustrates the point. We’ve all faced this sort of rules-for-the-sake-of-rules attitude. It ignores both the human factor and the reason in the equation. The rule itself is undermined when it is enforced for its own sake; the point is no longer reason, but rather internalization. I would hypothesize that a study might reveal a higher degree of rule internalization among the religious as they tend to refuse to reason many of their fundamental beliefs within the constraints of logic, but the problem is spread beyond that group. Imagine walking into an airport with one of those rope mazes designed to corral long lines. Most of us are willing to look like jackasses and actually follow the path even when no other customers are present and it would be more convenient to walk around the ropes. I suspect this internalization of broad social norms reaches beyond the religious. (It’s the more narrow ethical field where the religious tend to be logically impaired.)

As it turns out, these sort of policies aren’t even effective anyway.

A number of the policies require security officials, administrators and staff take “zero tolerance” approaches in punishing students that carry weapons of any sort, or cause any event that poses a threat in classrooms.

The policies typically require automatic suspension and withdrawal of a student from a school district for at least one year as a consequence, although schools across America enforce the policy differently, researchers said.

This takes discretion out of the equation and that’s where the big problem is. School officials are forced (and probably sometimes enjoy) to blindly follow rules. It doesn’t matter that not all students are equal or that not all actions, even similar ones, should be treated equally. No. Just suspend them all, right?

I think that’s another serious flaw in these sort of policies. Why give suspensions so often? Why not sit the student down and make him read a book? Why not make Suzie Q improve her algebra grade? Taking students out of the learning process is a detriment to the very thing these policies are suppose to be helping. And it’s so obvious.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: