Monday, June 18, 2007

The Disgraceful Saga of 'Zero Tolerance' Policies

After twenty years or more of the terror of 'zero tolerance' laws and societal policies, some humanity and intelligence is running these ridiculous and disdainful things out of town after town.

The reason is simple, zero tolerance has left a legacy of broken lives, scorched public trust, and destitute justice in its mindless rampage through America. Judges were not trusted to exercise good judgment and enforcement officials were required to press on with even the most bogus of criminal claims.

The American courtroom more resembles a horror show 'red room' than a house of justice.

Read Has 'zero tolerance' in schools gone too far?
Some states' lawmakers move in that direction on violence, drugs policies
and thank god the country is waking up.
Lawmakers in several states say the strict policies in schools have resulted in many punishments that lack common sense, and are seeking to loosen the restrictions.

"A machete is not the same as a butter knife. A water gun is not the same as a gun loaded with bullets," said Rhode Island state Sen. Daniel Issa, a former school board member who worries that no-tolerance rules are applied blindly and too rigidly.

Issa sponsored a bill requiring school districts to decide punishments for alcohol, drug and non-firearm weapon violations on a case-by-case basis after weighing the circumstances. It passed the Senate and House and now heads for the governor's desk.

Some have long been aware of the problems of zero tolerance. For the last decade, Mississippi has allowed local school districts to reduce previously mandatory one-year expulsions for violence, weapons and drug offenses.

More recently, Texas lawmakers have also moved to tone down their state's zero-tolerance rules. Utah altered its zero-tolerance policy on drugs so asthmatic students can carry inhalers. The American Bar Association has recommended ending zero-tolerance policies, while the American Psychological Association wants the most draconian codes changed.

"It may be a bit of self-correction that you're beginning to see where the pendulum is coming back," said Kathy Christie, vice president of a research clearinghouse for Education Commission of the States in Denver.

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