“Zero Tolerance,” modeled after the “broken windows” theory, has become common place in American school districts. Different infractions of varying degrees: possessing a weapon, smoking a cigarette in the bathroom, continual tardiness, and “willful defiance,” can result in suspension. These policies began to take hold during the Bloomberg years in high-poverty, urban school systems. Of course, this harsh attitude leads to higher suspension rates, which puts students at risk of “failing a grade, dropping out, or becoming incarcerated.”
Nonetheless, some school districts are wising up to the failures of zero tolerance policing. The suspension rate for LA schools fell by 53% after they banned suspensions “for subjective offenses such as ‘willful defiance.'” In contrast, LA graduation rates rose by 12%.
Carly Berwick at The Atlantic writes:
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It turns out that there are plenty of options, and that’s where progressive education steps in. Indeed, many of these options hark back to the era of early 20th-century schooling, when educators pushed back against the teaching philosophies typical of the 1800s: an emphasis on rote memorization and physical obedience, for one.