Peace & Police

PEACE & POLICE is a nonviolent campaign for social change, aimed at restoring trust and respect between our communities and our police. This campaign is the work of students at Virginia Union University who are majoring in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Many of us will eventually have careers in the field of law enforcement and policing and we want the relationship between the police and our communities to be strong. This Peace & Police campaign is where we offer our thoughts and ideas about how to make this relationship the best it can be.

My Experience with Zero Tolerance – AND HOW TO FIX IT

Apr 13, 2016 | by admin

Going through my years of high school, I just knew I was not going to be accepted into college. Not because of my academics, but because the record I had followed behind my name like a prisoner–I was a zero tolerance prisoner.

Going through my years of high school, I just knew I was not going to be accepted into college. Not because of my academics, but because the record I had followed behind my name like a prisoner. Part of the problem is that I am an asthmatic, and a couple of years ago, I had chronic asthma.

Zero tolerance became my enemy. I was suspended multiple times for insubordination, for wearing a “hoodie” over my uniform during cold days, taking my asthma pump in school, as if it was an illegal drug, and the list goes on.  Zero tolerance does not work, it just creates a bigger problem. My school was actually losing accreditation due to so many students rebelling against their zero tolerance rules.

I overcame my “record” by having full support from my mother who became a voice on the PTA board, and by her going to the board of education, along with many other parents. Not every child has that type of support, so the system needs to change.

The term “zero tolerance” has become overused in American culture. It all began as a “get-tough” policing strategy in New York City to target street crime and incivility, but it made its way into the United States school system. “Zero tolerance (be it for guns, violence, or drug use) is an outgrowth of the “law and order,” “tough on crime,” and “war on drugs” mentalities of the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, respectively.”

These policies often contain mandatory suspensions and/or expulsions for violations. Furthermore, many school districts interpret zero tolerance as including outwardly dull and harmless items, such as cough drops, non-prescription painkillers, and asthma inhalers. One result is dramatic increases in the numbers of student suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to the criminal justice system.

Suspension and expulsion of students are not effective disciplinary tools. Studies have consistently found, for example, that up to 40 percent of school suspensions are repeat “offenders”.[ii] How is suspension a punishment? A child gets to stay home for a few days, and probably alone. That sound like a great thing to me. However, it puts the child behind, to struggle more. For these students, the repeated suspensions may contribute to dropping out of school altogether.

For the zero tolerance to be more effective there must be smaller class sizes and the teachers should be more familiar with the students. The more teachers interact with their students the more likely they are to intervene when a problem arises.

There must be pressure maintained on the targeted audience until the goal is reached.[iii]  In addition, in the future, school discipline should strive to keep the mission simple: providing an education to the youth. School administrative should create a learning environment rather than setting up what looks like a contractual relationship with students. Students who work together to reach a positive goal will eventually create a more positive environment than students who shame or label other students.

Perhaps, we need to remove zero tolerance policies from school discipline completely and, instead, adopt restorative justice and its circle process. The circle process should include the following things recommended by Robin Goodman[iv]:

• Understand the motivation for the behavior.

• Consider the individual(s) involved.

• Assess any underlying mental illness.

• Have multisystem involvement: child, family, school, community resources.

• Educate youngsters about being responsible for themselves and each other.

• Increase and improve child mental health services.

There should more programs offered in school, especially if the target is drugs in school. One great program would be the DARE ((Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program. Parents need to step in as well. Many parents don’t work with these teachers, principals and law enforcements to correct their child behavior by punishment within the home or even outside the home.

Children should be treated according to their individual needs. The bottom line is to develop a more effective and fair way to deal with a problem, and that means more than a “zero tolerance” approach.


Reddington, Frances P., and Gene Bonham. “10.” Flawed Criminal Justice Policies: At the Intersection of the Media, Public Fear and Legislative Response. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic, 2012. 1923-94. Print.

[ii] “The Pros and Cons of Zero Tolerance Policies.” Parenting. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.

[iii]” Apecsecorg. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2016. []

[iv] Goodman, Robin F. (2001, March 14). Zero Tolerance Policies: Are They Too Tough or Not Enough? About Our New York University Child Study Center: online article. Goodman states that zero tolerance policies have a very narrow-minded approach to the problem of student substance abuse: they deal almost exclusively with the punishment phase of the problem. According to Goodman, the “best policies are those included in a comprehensive approach”. She outlines  8 steps to be incorporated into an effective replacement for or complement to current zero tolerance policies. []