Parents Challenging Schools’ Zero-Tolerance Practices


Daniel Bautista, 13, was transferred from a school in the Thousand Oaks area of Los Angeles for bringing a knife to school, says the Los Angeles Times. His parents, Jorge and Rose Bautista, demanded a public hearing. Rose Bautista told board members of the Conejo Valley Unified School District that her son “was a good kid who made a mistake.” The board ordered Daniel to attend another middle school until Thanksgiving break, which one member called a “very, very lenient punishment.”

School zero-tolerance policies are increasingly coming under fire by parents and community leaders who say they leave no room for individual judgment. The policies became prevalent after 1994, when the federal government decided that schools receiving federal funds must expel any student bringing a firearm onto campus. Many states and school districts enacted tougher standards afterl shootings like Colorado’s 1999 Columbine High School massacre. The California Education Code mandates expulsion for students caught with knives or other dangerous objects, although it affords leeway in how principals can apply punishment. The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and the Oakland-based Applied Research Center say get-tough policies have swept up children who pose no threat to safety. Punishment also has fallen disproportionately on minorities, they said.


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