On the surface, taking a tough approach with kids when it comes to drugs, bullying, weapon possession, smoking, and drinking on school grounds, sounds to be a good thing. These are not behaviors we want to encourage, but rather, we need to send a strong message that we disapprove and will not tolerate such behavior under any circumstances. The intent of the policy is admirable, but its implantation has been a failure.
While expulsion may be the proper solution to a student bringing a gun to school, it seems a little extreme for doing something as minor as cursing. Schools are expanding the scope of No Tolerance beyond it original 1994 Congressional intention. The policy was passed to keep federally funded institutions safe, not justify unfair and nonsensical treatment. We cannot eliminate personhood when determining punishments. If that were our nation’s philosophy, we would not have a judiciary. Rather punishments would be allocated by punching in accordance to straight facts into a computer. We clearly feel that our adults deserve a chance to be heard for their unique circumstances, so why should our children be any different?
In the judicial system, this approach is called strict liability. This means that if a perpetrator committed an act, their reason and mental state (mens rea) is irrelevant in mitigating the punishment. Essentially what we are saying is that there is no excuse whatsoever. Examples include statutory rape and selling alcohol to minors. Are we really willing to put smoking while at school on an equal footing morally?
A pure ‘No Tolerance’ approach is majorly flawed because it completely ignores the root of the issue and removes common sense and subjectivity from administrators. I propose hiring more competent staff that are accountable in assisting the unique needs of particular students. This does not necessarily mean a more lenient policy, just one that is more personalized.
If we don’t begin to understand why kids are acting this way, we cannot prevent future deviance. There is something about their particular past and unique circumstances that has led them to this juncture. In a society where no one can fall behind and no one can excel, we have stopped looking at children as unique individuals. One size does not fit all when it comes to raising and admonishing our children. These are the children that most desperately need love and counsel. Further isolation is only going to lead to greater, more serious trouble in the future.
Yes, troublemakers should be punished for their indiscretions, but more importantly, they should be consoled. They are troubled for a reason. And constantly thrusting more and more negative reinforcement upon them will only make institutions, and everyone working under their authority, the enemy.
What we need is more personalized attention. These kids want attention. They are begging for it, at all costs. So give them positive attention for their strides. The answer lies in psychology. These children need hope and one way this can be established is through mentorship.
Zero Tolerance is an easy way for school officials to write off the problem and blame the youth. Sure, it may be the youth’s fault, but the school needs to take a more active role in assisting students that need added attention.
Millennials have likely known nothing but no tolerance if they attended public school. Sadly, the message that these students have been conditioned to accept is that school administrators do not care. They are the enemy. They are the punishers. Their individual story and background is irrelevant. It doesn't matter why they do things and it doesn't even matter if they stop. Zero Tolerance focuses on the problem. We need to shift our focus to the solution, and that lies within the student's themselves.
To learn more about No Tolerance click here.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. Please note that while I take this approach with minors, I do not advocate taking the same stance with incarcerated adults. I believe that we should be less inclined to give up on reforming youth. They are still malleable and have hope for a bright future. We should give them every chance to reform in our power and help them along the way, before its too late. There is a threshold of falling deeper and deeper into a life of crime where the likelihood of rehabilitation becomes less likely. But not necessarily ever hopeless. If you enjoy reading my articles, please click the ‘Subscribe’ button above, to be notified when I post a similar, new article. Cheers! - Marie