Some Urge Easing of Columbine-Inspired ‘Zero Tolerance’


When schools began greatly expanding zero-tolerance policies against student misbehavior after the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, few expected to see kids as young as 6 handcuffed and removed from school for throwing a temper tantrum or playing with squirt guns. With nearly half of states now mandating that schools expel and often call the police on students for fighting, possessing weapons of any kind or even disrupting class, thousands of students nationwide have been kicked out of school or seen the inside of a cop car for violating zero-tolerance policies.

Now, reports, the first stirrings of a possible retrenchment on zero tolerance can be seen in Indiana, Mississippi and Texas, where a handful of lawmakers are trying to reverse the trend of adopting ever-more stringent discipline policies. Highly publicized arrests in Florida and Nevada in the past two months are among dozens of examples where zero-tolerance policies have gone too far, critics say. In January, two grade-school children were arrested in Ocala, Fla., for drawing threatening stick figures in class. A 6-year-old in Florida’s Brevard County was handcuffed and removed from school for hitting his teacher and a police officer with a book. And in Nevada, officials recently tried to expel a student who drew a comic strip depicting the death of his teacher.


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