5 Myths about Zero Tolerance Disciplinary Policies

In a recent Washington Post article, writer Valerie Strauss chronicles The American Psychological Association’s task force researching the effectiveness of zero-tolerance disciplinary policies, “Are Zero Tolerance Policies Effective in the Schools? An Evidentiary Review and Recommendations.”  

Their findings are as follows:

MYTH #1: School violence is at a crisis level and increasing, thus necessitating forceful, no-nonsense strategies for violence prevention.

REALITY: Although any level of violence and disruption is unacceptable in schools and must be continually addressed in education, the evidence does not support an assumption that violence in schools is out of control or increasing. Incidents of critical and deadly violence remain a relatively small proportion of school disruptions, and the data have consistently indicated that school violence and disruption have remained stable, or even decreased somewhat, since approximately 1985.

From the above quote, we find professionals on both sides of this equation.  Should we scrap all of these measures that cost millions of dollars to every school district and a significant time away from teachers teaching and students learning because the probability of a significant event is so very remote? What then do we tell the parents of those children killed in the next shooting rampage?

Much of this controversy is due to the subjective nature of this issue.  One person’s aggression is another’s playfulness. It is only when we can measure emerging aggression can these ambiguities be clarified, addressed and defended! Defense of our actions is critical because much of these overreactions are motivated by a school district’s or principal’s desire to defend their actions. 

If these schools truly wish to prevent aggression in their schools and put themselves in a position to best defend their actions, they must implement the Campus Aggression Prevention System (CAPS Solution), a Risk Management System (RMS).

In the coming days we will address and discuss the other four assumptions and recommendations made by the American Psychological Association.  Sign up to learn more. We encourage your comments and suggestions.


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