Zero Tolerance for the Zero-tolerance policies

For my last essay, I wanted to show what I'd been working towards and improving with my creative thinking and writing. I was also really interested in my topic, so conducting research was informative and fairly enjoyable. I feel as if I did well on this essay and displayed how I have been working on my writing skills throughout the year. There is still much for me to learn but so far a lot has been conquered. 

Nisa Hardin

Advanced essay no. 4

Zero tolerance for the “zero-tolerance policies”

Other than major budget cuts, underfunding and suffering from government ignorance, a majority of inner-city schools across the U.S deal with the growing issue that follows zero-tolerance policies. Ever since a surge in violence and theft within schools before the 1980’s, schools across the nation have made it their top priority to completely divest acts of violence, truancy and general misbehaviour. The differences between then and now, though, are almost too drastic to be comparable. The first and most outstanding thing would have to be the “War on drugs” that Reagan created, which pushed drugs to inner city black and hispanic communities to incarcerate their population as a tactic to suppress the civil rights movement; in turn causing the impressionable public to demonize and alienate the black community and its culture. With significantly diminished property values and quality of life due to open-air drug markets, drug-related murders and numerous home invasion robberies, many communities residing within the inner city were figuratively and in some cases literally left for dead. Too add to the damage, Zero-tolerance policies were created and implemented within the majority of U.S schools.

To this day, research has not been able to report improvements subsequent to the placement of these regulations. Often what happens is that students are penalized to the fullest extent for things that one would think only called for a slap on the hand, but because this isn’t the case many student careers are often thrown away, regardless of the state of their records; more specifically those affected are mainly minorities and students with disabilities. Statistics show that 40% of students expelled from U.S schools each year are black, 70% of school related arrests are black and latino, 25% of minorities are incarcerated within a couple years after they’re 18. Jose Gallego shared his story in an interview about school-to-prison pipelines, illustrating the slippery slope that often follows the penalties of violating zero-tolerance policies: “I’m a highschool dropout. I was supposed to graduate in 2008, but I missed a few days of school because my parents were going through a hard time. They kicked me out of school. So, then I started selling CD’s downtown. I was arrested for selling CD’s, i was locked up, and I got out with a whole different perspective. I had never been in juvenile detention before. I didn’t know what to do. I started selling drugs. Now I am lost. I’ve got a little brother and little sister, they don’t look up to me anymore. I’m a two time convicted felon. It is hard for me to get a job.”

My middle school experience somewhat reflected the zero-tolerance policies unto its students, but fortunately I wasn’t heavily impacted by the consequences that followed the petty and excessive amount of rules that if not followed could jeopardize a student’s access to education. For example though, one of the rules that I will never understand to this day is uniform. To emphasize how seriously staff took wearing the navy blue polo and khaki pants, I’d compare it to the dress codes at SLA. Students are allowed to wear nearly whatever they please so long as it doesn’t reveal entirely too much or suggest something negative or offensive to others. Even when there are incidents where a student may violate these rules, the most they are asked to do is refrain from wearing that item of clothing in the future. At my middle school, Teachers would patrol the halls at exactly 8:40 each morning to examine the uniforms of each student. Wearing any shade of blue other than navy, gym clothes on a non-gym day, or head wear that wasn’t khaki or navy blue were grounds for an unopposable early dismissal or in some cases immediate suspension. The average number of students pulled out of class and taken to the office a day were three or four, and that was just in my grade group.

This, in contrast to the extremely strict zero-tolerance policies in other districts, is virtually nothing. The school-to-prison pipeline is really a classroom-to-prison pipeline. A student’s trajectory to a criminalized life often begins with an unfair curriculum that disrespects children’s lives and that does not center on things that matter. Nearly two decades of a "zero tolerance" mentality has contributed dramatically to a spike in exclusionary discipline that involves racial disparities, and if you ask me all of it seems just a bit too strategic.


Giroux, Henry. "Racial Injustice and Disposable Youth in the Age of Zero Tolerance."International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education. Taylor and Francis Online, 25 Nov. 2010. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

Norm Stamper / AlterNet. "5 Surprising Consequences of the War on Drugs." Alternet. N.p., 06 Sept. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.

Buggs, Innis. "Innis Buggs." Politic365. N.p., 15 Dec. 2012. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

Fuentes, Annette. "Preview of Article:." Rethinking Schools Online. Rethinking Schools, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.