The Harm of Zero Tolerance

Essay by zapper59High School, 11th gradeB, November 2014

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Richer 1

Brian Richer

Cameron Yarborough

English 3

21 January 2014


At the end of the 80's school shootings were on a rise, and the drug epidemic was nowhere close to solved. Oakland, Cleveland, Iowa City, Olive Hurst and dozens of others, left this period with record highs in gun violence. With parents frantic and the Clinton Administration in its infancy, the US government was forced to act in some way to these horrific acts. Their solution was passed in 1994 as an amendment to the Improving America's Schools Act of 1965, which mandated zero tolerance gun policies with a one year expulsion for offending students. As these policies rolled out opposition rose about how unfair and harmful these new rules were to children. Because of a lack of effectiveness, and the emotional harm that they cause it is clear that these policies must be torn apart and rebuilt upon a policy of early psychological screening, and armed police officers for the safety of the students.

A whole range of studies, along with hard evidence, have shown that these policies are not only ineffective, but are likely counterproductive. The 90's totaled 49 gun related fatalities in schools with these policies in place, and the following decade brought with it 87 deaths. Simply offering up a penalty for bringing a gun to school is not enough to stop a shooter with suicide on his mind, as many of these tragedies have ended. Not only are these policies ineffective, but they have also been found to be harmful to the students they are meant to protect. A recent study by MIT showed that these harsh penalties actually cause many students to avoid reporting criminal behavior for fear of losing friendships. They found no hard example of zero...