NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 4, 2004

"Zero-tolerance" policies designed to keep dangerous drugs and weapons out of public schools are good idea in theory. But in fact, they are inflexible, harsh and lacking in common sense, says attorney Neal Boortz.

Oftentimes, says Boortz, they punish the wrong student for an infraction that common sense would dismiss. Some recent examples include:

  • Wisconsin: A sixth-grader gets suspended because of a science project that involved cutting an onion; the student brought a kitchen knife to school.
  • Georgia: A sixth grade is suspended over a Tweety Bird wallet on a Tweety Bird keychain; school officials decide that her keychain is a weapon and that she could strangle someone with it.
  • Texas: High school baseball player Cory Henson is suspended over an 8 inch souvenir baseball bat found in his car; school officials determined the 8 inch wooden bat is a weapon but not the aluminum bats or other equipment kept in Henson's trunk.
  • Missouri: A fifth-grade student is suspended for drawing a picture of an airplane flying into a building just one month after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

These policies serve no useful purpose, says Boortz, and should be reconsidered. Part of maturity, he says, is recognizing shades of grey. If these students see that their teachers and administrators aren't up to the task, why should they even try?

Source: Neal Boortz, "Zero-tolerance --- zero-thought,", June 4, 2004.


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