Pediatrics Organization Opposes Zero Tolerance Policies

School suspensions and expulsions often create unforeseen problems, especially if they are applied in a zero-tolerance setting, according to a policy statement released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and appearing in the journal Pediatrics.

The AAP does not support zero tolerance policies and recommends that student suspension or expulsion should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“Research has demonstrated that students who experience out-of-school suspension and expulsion are 10 times more likely to drop out of high school than those who do not,” the statement claims. ”Also, suspension and expulsion can often place the student back into the environment that led to the behavior problems. If the student’s parents work, there may be no one home to provide supervision, making it more likely the student will engage in inappropriate behavior or associate with individuals who may increase violent or illegal activities.”

Related Article: How to Manage Students With Behavioral Issues

Believing early intervention is important to identify behaviors that could lead to suspension or expulsion, the AAP recommends that pediatricians screen for early childhood and preschool behavior problems so treatment can begin early to reduce risk factors for future behavior.

“As a student’s primary care physician, pediatricians should establish communication with the school nurse or counselor for children identified with high-risk behaviors,” the organization adds.

The AAP recommended the following strategies for K-12 schools and preschools:

  • Early intervention programs for preschool children
  • Early identification of children at risk for school difficulties and intensive intervention before problem behaviors occur
  • Annual implementation of clearly articulated and carefully taught age-appropriate codes of conducts with stated alternatives and supports for students to use before they engage in inappropriate behaviors, such as school-wide positive behavior support (SWBS).

Additionally, the policy statement claims pediatricians can play an important role with regard to discipline issues.

Read the full policy statement.

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