Additionally, other school discipline issues such as drug abuse, cheating, bullying, truancy, disrespect of authority, and minor misdemeanors plague educational institutions, resulting to innumerable classroom and school disruptions, as well as almost two million suspensions yearly. (Hymowitz, 2000)
It comes as no surprise then that most schools in the United States have decided to impose a zero tolerance policy-and it is not something new. According to a survey of the U.S. Department of Education at least a decade ago, of more than 1,200 public schools, approximately three-quarters of schools in the United States have reported practicing a version of a no-tolerance policy-"79 percent had zero-tolerance policies against violence, 88 percent for drugs, 91 percent for weapons and 94 percent for firearms." (Witt, 2007) Many schools enforced this policy after the term "zero tolerance" became popular during the last days of Ronald Reagan's "War on Drugs" and was even made more infamous after a series of high-profile high school shootings, the American Psychological Association reported.
Such policy, however, does not come without any controversy clinging to it. For one, according to the Journal of Sociology, "sociologists have historically scoffed at this latter (zero tolerance) policy." (Zajdow, 2005) Not only that, this policy has sparked numerous complaints and protests from the public through the years because of what many see as pointlessness of policies, like students being suspended or expelled for carrying a legal, non-prescription drug such as Advil in their backpacks, having pocketknives in cars, and carrying sharp tools beyond a "woodshop" class. In other cases, the policy was known to have come in conflict with religious freedom, such as the carrying of kirpans, a ceremonial dagger or sword that must be carried by baptized Sikhs. (Zero tolerance (schools))
But much worse than the irregularities is the problem of racism in terms of implementing the zero tolerance and discipline in school, according to the American Sociological Association. In fact, though, the United States is seen as the land of the free, reports of much severe punishment for African-American students than their white counterparts are prevalent. (Free, 2004) In a paper entitled "Zero Tolerance Policies and Alternative Education: Where Do We Go from Here" Janese Free states the following:
"The recent rise in school violence and prevalence of weapons in the hands of students in the past twenty years has led to implementing new disciplinary policies in schools- most notably, 'zero tolerance policies.' While these seemingly 'get tough on crime' policies remain popular, criticism and skepticism as to their effectiveness and appropriateness increase daily. The implementation of these policies nationwide has resulted in dramatic increases in school exclusions (suspensions and expulsions). Not only are exclusions more prevalent, but research suggests that a disproportionate number of African American and other minority students are being excluded from schools across the country." (Free, 2004)
One the questions that I honestly think should be brought to the fore: Why are African-American students punished more severely than children of other ethnic groups As, the data from the U.S. Department of Education show, "on average across the