A Generation Later: What We’ve Learned about Zero Tolerance in Schools

December 16, 2013

Zero tolerance discipline policies that mandate suspension or expulsion of students for misconduct have gained tremendous momentum over the past 25 years while also inviting deep controversy. The expansion of these policies to include a wide range of low-level misconduct and disruptive behavior has led to approximately two million students being suspended annually from secondary schools.

A new report from Vera's Center on Youth Justice, A Generation Later: What We’ve Learned about Zero Tolerance in Schools, examines research that has found that zero tolerance discipline policies do not make schools more orderly or safe, and might actually have the opposite effect. The report also looks at evidence that policies that push students out of school can increase their chances of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system and have life-long negative effects, perhaps severely limiting a young person’s potential. It concludes that, a generation after the rise of these policies and practices, neither schools nor young people have benefited. Fortunately, as described in the report, promising alternatives to zero tolerance can safely keep young people where they belong—in school.