Over the last 30 years, schools across the country have enacted tough new discipline policies. Some of those schools say they went too far.

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In partnership with The Center For Public Integrity

How Zero Tolerance Blurred the Lines Between Schools and Criminal Justice

Producer: Scott Michels
Editor: Anne Checler
Associate Producer: Meral Agish
Reporter: Susan Ferriss

In the 1980s and 1990s, as crime rates started to rise, schools across the country began to crack down on violence, disorder and weapons in the classroom. A new “get tough” approach to discipline took hold that increasingly relied on swift punishment, suspensions and arrests.

By the mid-90s, that approach to discipline had been given a name: “zero tolerance.” In 1994, the federal government called for zero tolerance, or mandatory one-year expulsion, for anyone who brought a gun to school. But many schools went even further, using a zero tolerance approach for other weapons, drugs and all sorts of misbehavior. By 2011, more than three million students a year were being suspended and nearly 250,000 were being referred to the police by their schools. And those harsh punishments were much more likely to impact minorities and students with disabilities.

The Unintended Consequences of Taking a Hard Line on School Discipline by Clyde Haberman

TranscriptLesson Plan

More on the Story

To reform juvenile justice, Alabama must dismantle the school-to-prison pipelineAL.com
The Rise and Fall of Zero Tolerance PoliciesThe Takeaway
Related Coverage
The Unintended Consequences of Taking a Hard Line on School DisciplineThe New York Times
When Schools Take Safety Too Far: The Origins of Zero-Tolerance DisciplineKQED