Impact of Zero Tolerance Policy on Students of Color

Zero-Tolerance Policies: A Catalyst to School-to-Prison Pipeline

The zero-tolerance approach relies on predetermined punishments to a behavior despite considering the extent of the offense.

Zero-tolerance policies were put into practice to prevent violence and behavioral issues. But zero-tolerance is practiced to suspend or expel students for insignificant misconduct. The misemploy and bias implementation led to an increase in the rate of students’ suspension and expulsion from schools likely to result in vulnerable youth, specifically, from different racial backgrounds.

Students of color are more likely to be suspended three times and 3.5 times to be expelled than the White compeers (U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, 2014).

Inappropriate practicing of the punitive zero-tolerance policies throws the children out-of-school into the juvenile or criminal justice system.

Past research has already reported that zero-tolerance strategies devastatingly impact the academics of students. Moreover, suspension and expulsion are responsible for the behavioral, psychological, academic, and anti-social issues.

Schools with an increased rate of suspension and expulsion have a lower satisfactory school climate.

Most school administrations spend maximum time disciplining students using zero-tolerance approaches making the environment intolerable and insupportable.

African Americans Suffer Adversely from Zero-Tolerance Policies

Zero-tolerance is the chief strategy in schools that either give severe punishments or referral to the criminal justice system.

Even though African Americans suffer adversely from zero-tolerance policies, their perspectives and perceptions are use to keep aside.

It is also an observable fact that frequent practicing of zero-tolerance policies increases racial disparities.

Students are disparately handled under the realm of zero-tolerance policies belonging to different ethnic minorities and students with disabilities that result in damaging effects.

The disproportionate treatment among students has devastating effects on the different aspects of life. The misperceptions and their ultimate consequence lead the students from the school-to-prison pipeline ruining their academic, psychological, and social life.

Zero-tolerance policies construct Black students as criminals. This unfair targeting of students of color reveals a prison-type mindset.

Students of color are more likely to receive harsh punishments and suspension/expulsion compared to the other students for misdemeanors and insignificant infractions (Advancement Project, 2010).

It is unaffordable and unfair to snuff out students of color by punitive disciplinary policies and push them out of the academic right propelling to the criminal justice system.

The literature shows that teachers are responsible to some extent for the unusual outcomes, as they see the students of color as attitudinal and aggressive, despite the fact is they are behaving the same way as the White students.

Probably, the shift away from punitive approaches is for the betterment.

It is required to raise awareness among the educators by organizing professional-development training sessions giving special attention to the experiences of the students of color.

Student Resource Officers (SROs) should provide with counseling and education about the student’s behavior and understanding so that they can respond to challenging behavioral problems effectively.

It is highly needed to inspect the biased process negatively impacting African American students and their perceptions (Bell, 2015).


Advancement Project (2010). Test, Punish, and Pushout: How “Zero-Tolerance” and High Stakes Testing Policies Funnel Youth into the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Washington, DC.

Bell, C. (2015). The hidden side of zero-tolerance policies: The African American perspective. Sociology Compass, 9(1), 14-22.

U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. (2014). Civil Rights Data Collection Data Snapshot: School Discipline.

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