Zero tolerance for bad behavior is common in American schools, but this policy has often proved ineffective, even harmful to students and schools. The tide is turning. A method that relies on communication between students, teachers, and others improves accountability and school safety.
As the school year gets under way, teachers and administrators will grapple with how to maintain discipline and ensure safety. New policies and a growing chorus of criticism indicate that harsh “zero tolerance” discipline policies in schools may be on the wane nationally.
That’s a good thing: Zero tolerance policies that rely heavily on suspensions and expulsions for most conduct infractions have become commonplace in American schools in recent decades, but they have proved ineffective, even harmful to students and school environments.
School districts are starting to see the light. In June, the Michigan State Board of Education issued a resolution calling for schools “to adopt discipline policies without mandated suspension or expulsion for issues that do not involve weapons.” In May, the Colorado General Assembly passed a “smarter discipline” bill eliminating mandatory expulsion except for firearms, and giving schools more discretion over suspensions. More recently, school districts in Chicago, New Orleans, and Philadelphia altered their codes of conduct to limit suspensions and expulsions.
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