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Students Left Behind: Is It Ever Okay to Give up on a Child?
The ChallengeConcerns about student safety and learning have led to the adoption of a "zero tolerance" approach to discipline at many schools. But the policy has sometimes resulted in shutting children out of school. In 2003-04, the last year for which statistics are available, 21,501 students were expelled from California schools. What do we owe these children?
What's at StakeAccording to a recent study by the group Public Agenda, 85 percent of teachers surveyed believe that most children's school experience suffers at the expense of a few chronic offenders. But what should schools do about these repeated troublemakers? Zero tolerance was intended to ensure that certain serious misbehaviors, such as the possession of drugs and weapons, were completely disallowed on campus. Yet these policies, according to the American Bar Association, too often catch students whose offenses are not serious, such as the possession of a manicure kit or giving a Midol tablet to a friend. The ABA also found inappropriate referrals of these youngsters to the courts, creating what some have called a "schoolhouse to jailhouse track."