Zero-Tolerance Education Policies Are Destroying Young People’s Lives

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

In the year 2006, 3.3 million students, or one in fourteen, were suspended or expelled.  This is due to the Zero-Tolerance Policy that has been in effect since 1994. In recent years this policy has negatively effected many students in the school systems.  The Zero-Tolerance Policy was first implemented to expel any student for a year that brought a weapon to school. Now this policy has been put into regular use for minor infractions made by students such as profanity, talking back, defiant behavior, and bringing over the counter medicines to school. Punishing students is doing more harm than good. Instead of giving these troubled students the services that they desperately need, schools are referring them to juvenile courts to address behaviors that can and should be handled by school administration.  Since students are introduced to the judicial system at such a young age, they are more likely to drop out of schools and encounter the judicial system again.

This Zero-Tolerance Policy is having a more direct effect on the African American population in the United States. Students of color are targeted by school officials more than white students and receive harsher punishments like suspension and expulsion. Currently, the United States has the highest incarceration rate. There are more African American men living in jail cells than in college dorm rooms today.

As the ESEA bill is up for reauthorization, now is a crucial time in which the American public should speak up to local lawmakers in order to abolish the Zero-Tolerance Policy.



LaMarche, Gara. “Zero-Tolerance Education Policies Are Destroying Young People’s Lives”,, AlterNet, 13 April 2011. 15 April 2011. < 150594/zero-tolerance_education_policies_are_destroying_young_people%27s_lives>.

Michigan State University. “Zero tolerance ineffective in schools, study finds.” ScienceDaily, 11 May 2010. Web. 24 Apr. 2011

Yanoff, Shelly. “‘Zero Tolerence’ failed city schools”,, AlterNet, 11 April 2011. 14 April 2011. < 29410257_1_zero-tolerance-policies-zero-tolerance-unsafe-schools>.


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Faculty Instructor: Kevin Howley

Evaluator: Jamie Stockton Ph.D., Educational Studies

DePauw University