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Schools' "Zero-Tolerance" Policy Turns Kids into Criminals

Newsweek had a disturbing short article about the fallout of "zero tolerance" polices in public schools.

As it turns out, the courts are not the best place to discipline children. (Duh!)

The failure of this idea is clear in New York, where zero-tolerance policies have led to arrests for gun possession on school grounds, but also for relatively minor offenses like shoving. Even nonviolent incidents—doodling, throwing food, back-talking—have landed kids in court, where last year New York sent more than 1,400 minors (average age: less than 16) to correctional facilities. According to a series of recent reports—by the Justice Department and the state Office of Children and Family Services—the institutions don’t help. Nearly nine of 10 occupants commit additional crimes. It’s a “school-to-prison pipeline,” says Judith S. Kaye, the state’s former chief judge.

She hopes the negative publicity will provide a push toward alternative modes of justice (like youth courts, where peers hear the cases of peers), more civics classes (where kids learn the virtues of sociability), and level-headed adjudication—where detention doesn’t always involve a cell.


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