Colorado panel says scrap strict discipline rules

Tina Dove, Director, National Opportunity to Learn Campaign

A Colorado panel of lawmakers and police have rightly called for the end – or at least the scaling back – of strict disciplinary policies, also known as zero-tolerance. In a post-Columbine world, school systems quickly implemented harsh discipline policies that punished all offenders equally regardless of whether the offense involved a weapon or just a kid talking back to a teacher. Such measures have proven counterproductive, and have studies have shown that children of color and low-income students have been disproportionately affected by these policies.

In a news report this week, the Associated Press writes:
“The state laws put in place after high-profile cases of youth violence have tied the hands of school administrators with zero-policy standard, said members of a panel looking at school discipline trends. In turn, the officials are left with no choice but to refer a high number of students to law enforcement for minor offenses that pose no threat to school safety.”

We agree with the Colorado panel. To ensure all children have access to an equal opportunity to learn – regardless of where they live, the color of their skin or the wealth of their household – we must keep them in school learning. It does no one any good to kick them out for nonviolent offenses, for them to wander the streets or to sit at home idle. It’s time to undo these ineffective – and often discriminatory – disciplinary policies.

To read the rest of the AP’s article about the Colorado panel, click here.