ERIC Number: EJ914665
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Oct
Reference Count: 0
Tolerating Zero Tolerance?
Moore, Brian N.
School Business Affairs, v76 n8 p8-10 Oct 2010
The concept of zero tolerance dates back to the mid-1990s when New Jersey was creating laws to address nuisance crimes in communities. The main goal of these neighborhood crime policies was to have zero tolerance for petty crime such as graffiti or littering so as to keep more serious crimes from occurring. Next came the war on drugs. In federal law, zero tolerance became a seizure tool that allowed federal agencies to seize vehicles, planes, and boats used to transport even the smallest amount of drugs into the country. Again, not a bad idea if one is fighting a major influx of drugs. States began to follow suit with laws such as mandatory sentencing when guns were used during a felony. Zero tolerance became a standard for adding jail time for such offenses. After the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, guns in schools became a major element of what could now be called the zero tolerance culture. Many experts and parent groups applauded these types of hard-line stances on protecting the children. Soon the states were establishing the same initiatives surrounding drugs in school. But soon questions arose about the definition of a drug. Districts struggled to understand what the legislature meant by "no drugs in schools." "No guns" slowly changed to "no weapons" and again the terminology opened itself up to interpretation. One person's idea of a weapon did not coincide with another person's idea and challenges started to crop up in court. Still, the legislatures and school boards around the country were fighting the public battle to stop violence and drug abuse in schools, so taking a hard line was a popular position. During the past few years, many school districts have become embroiled in bitter media battles over zero tolerance policies. The author contends that sometimes the issues that surround zero tolerance are not about enforcement, but rather about the initial assessment and decision (usually by a school administrator) to take action under the auspices of zero tolerance.
Descriptors: Weapons, Crime, State Legislation, Zero Tolerance Policy, School Policy, Student Behavior, School Districts, School Safety
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A