As Texas lawmakers study the law on student discipline, parents are frustrated about the pervasiveness of so-called “zero tolerance” policies, says the Houston Chronicle. Critics say such rules give school districts the green light to impose strict penalties for misbehavior without considering extenuating circumstances such as the students’ intent to do harm or prior disciplinary records. Fred Hink of Katy Zero Tolerance, a group dedicated to protecting parents’ rights in the discipline process, said these practices lack common sense and do not address disability considerations, due process, and the long-range effects of placing children in alternative education programs. Parents report discipline for conduct ranging from spitting, chewing gum, and talking loud to carrying items that resemble prohibited items, aggravated assault, sexual assault, or drug and alcohol-related offenses.
State Rep. Dora Olivo is hosting a summit on student disciplinary action next week. Judith Browne, an expert on zero tolerance, said thousands of school districts have embraced ineffective policies. At the summit, she will address the impact of zero tolerance on minority children, whom she says are disproportionately targeted.