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Zero Tolerance

Based on data from the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, minority students are being suspended or expelled in disproportionate numbers.  The report drew on national and state data.

As a percentage of enrollment, more African-American students nationally have received out-of-school suspension of one or more days than their peers.  Data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights found in 2006 more than 28 percent of African-American middle school boys had been suspended at least once, compared with 10 percent of white males.  For females, it was 18 percent of black students compared with 4 percent of white students. The Education Department found that 3.25 million students or 7 percent of the total number of students in school had been suspended at least once.

Most suspensions were for minor violations such as being tardy or skipping school.  The North Carolina study, found that students were suspended for possessing or using a cellphone at school.  Thirty-three percent of African-Americans were suspended for possession of a cellphone while, 15 percent of whites were suspended.  Thirty-eight percent of African- Americans were suspended for dress code violation, while 17 percent of whites were suspended.

The incident at Columbine High School have contributed to the imposition of zero tolerance rules.  But the studies indicate that the suspension for minor offenses like being tardy do not make the school safer.  I favor suspension or expulsion for bring weapons to school.  But not for minor offenses.  Suspending a student for excessive absence only contributes to excessive absence.  Imagine as an adult, the police took away your driver’s license the first time you passed a red light or was caught speeding.    Punishments need to equal the severity of the offense.  And absolute rules fail to do so!

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