Many individuals question if the zero-tolerance policy – that is instigated in an abundant number of schools—is too much harsh? Is the extreme discipline absurd? Is there another efficient way to punish minor misbehavior in schools? These questions revolve around the policy that many national schools implement, but what exactly is zero-tolerance?
The zero-tolerance policy punishes scholars when they violate the campus’ rules. According to the book, scholars face harsh punishments like expulsion if they fail to follow the strict rules required in their schools. The problem here lies, the policy doesn’t take into consideration the circumstances, the intent or if the violator has any discipline conduct. Due to this, many youths are being incorrectly punished for minor school acts many individuals consider unnecessary.
Due to all the excessive punishments like removal or suspension, the American Psychological Association (APA) has taken matters into their own hands to view the impact of the policy and its usefulness. Like the book states, even though the policy might be useful to prevent serious crimes like school shootings, I agree with the APA that it has become misguided on when to enforce a penalty and for what type of actions. Like in the case of the boy who was expelled after answering his mother’s phone call during school. According to the zero-tolerance policy the boy had violated the school’s no cell phone rule, so he deserved to be punished. However, I agree with the APA that this punishment was excessive and unfair because of the situation. All what the student was doing was answering the call from his mother who was on deployment in Iraq. In my opinion, him being expelled was the incorrect punishment, for he should have been allowed to answer his cell phone—because it was his mother who is a soldier and whom he has not seen in several months—then the school should have implemented a lesser punishment like confiscating his phone.
The zero-tolerance policy could influence the labeling theory on many students who get unfairly punished. For example, in the case of the 10-year old girl who got expelled from school because of a plastic knife her mother placed on her lunchbox. Although bringing the knife to school was unintentional, the girl still proceeded to get punished for possessing the weapon. This can spark thoughts of being labeled as a student with “behavioral or aggressive problems” either way, so then the next time she might bring a knife with the intentions of harming another student to live up to those labels.
I believe that the APA was trying to fix damaged relationships among the victim and the aggressor by implementing restorative justice. The ability to empower the victim with the voice to discuss about the act and the effects the act had with the offender through restorative justice allows the offender to understand what was committed, amend and to take responsibility. For example, restorative justice can be applied to someone who is bullied. Usually when someone bullies someone else it is because they were bullied before, so by giving the victim the voice to tell the bully how much pain he or she is in because of their actions will help the aggressor understand the situation through the victim’s eyes.
Over all, a harsh punishment like suspension for a minor violation like using a phone during class will affect the student’s learning in the future. I believe that the idea of enforcing rules, especially in school is essential to create a safe environment; however, the punishment should match with the intensity of the violation done by the student.
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