Report: Schools Should Reconsider Zero-Tolerance Policies

These popular ways of managing student discipline haven't been proven to be effective and may have negative outcomes.

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A recently published research brief by Child Trends, “Multiple Responses, Promising Results: Evidence-Based, Nonpunitive Alternatives To Zero Tolerance,” suggests that zero tolerance school discipline policies have not been proven effective by research and may have negative effects, making students more likely to drop out and less likely to graduate on time. Instead, the brief recommends the use of nonpunitive disciplinary action, such as behavior interventions, social skills classes, and character education.

“Zero tolerance policies evolved from a belief among some educators and parents that a failure to strongly punish misbehavior sends a message that their school is not serious about the safety of students and staff,” the report claims. “Some stakeholders use these policies out of concern that nonpunitive interventions may allow disruptive students to remain in the classroom and prevent other students from learning. While some of the alternatives to zero tolerance discussed in this brief may require additional human and financial resources, many nonpunitive and preventive approaches to school violence and student misbehavior hold great promise. These approaches not only help to prevent or minimize negative behaviors, but also promote positive youth development and skills that will help students in the classroom and beyond.”

Read the brief.

Read other campus safety research.

Photo by Ann Douglas


Research, Student Discipline, Zero Tolerance

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