2.27.2008

Zero Tolerance

There have been a lot of noteworthy shakeups lately at private schools in my city of Los Angeles. Expulsions for drugs. Expulsions for cheating. Many of the decisions to expel fall under the ‘zero tolerance’ clause accompanying life these days.

I roll zero tolerance around in my head and think, “Oh, how easy to educate our children when they’re behaving and following our rules, and oh, how quickly we discard them when they get out of line.”

I know the infractions of these assorted children are serious. I know the actions deserve consequences. But expulsion? Is that the best way to handle these matters? Shouldn’t school remain a key ingredient in realigning the child gone astray? And what kind of lesson is taught with a simple discarding of the misbehaving child?

I am not an educator, nor am I a psychologist, but I am a parent, and I believe there are lessons to be learned from being caught using drugs and cheating, lessons that go beyond, “Well, you blew it and you’re out of here.” Whatever happened to the punishment that fits the crime? There are lots of possibilities: extra schoolwork, real community service (as opposed to a lot of cushy experiences children select), maybe visiting juvenile programs for those who fell victim to bad circumstances and bad choices. Come on, administrators. Get creative. Isn’t that part of the job, educating the whole child and not just the part that always toes the line? And yes, of course, get the parents involved.

Expulsion is purely punitive. Naturally, there are times when it comes down to this, but the practice of zero tolerance is a dreadful lesson to impart of our youth, especially if we want them to learn about their actions and see how they can right a wrong. And is zero tolerance a phrase we really want circulating in society these days? I’m not for coddling – quite the opposite – but I think simply relocating a child to a new school places little burden on the child and teaches little responsibility. What it mostly does is remove the original school from the burden of dealing with the child and offers a public display that says, “We’re serious about this problem.” That may benefit the school, but it hardly benefits the child.


4 comments:

kristen said...

i'm with you, that there are other, more effective ways to deal with these issues, instead of going straight to the mattresses with expulsion. not that that shouldn't be an option, i would just think that it would be the last result. i guess that's old school of me.

jen said...

i think it's chickenshit (i am neither an educator or a shrink so you know, i might be wrong) but we give kids the message that they matter. that we don't give up on them. and then we kick them out.

i realize there are bigger issues at hand, but at the end of the day, i wish we didn't give up.

QT said...

I think expulsion should be reserved for those who threaten the safety of other students. The rest? Yeah, there are lessons to be learned.

Neil said...

I think these expulsions have little to do with educating the children about doing wrong, and more to do with the school covering it's own ass, so parents don't pull their kids out of the school or the school getting a bad reputation.