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Undesirable behaviors and misconduct are among the many obstacles that affect a student’s success in their study. Often, these misbehaviors create dangerous situations and unsafe environments in school settings. In order to eliminate these issues, different cultures have different approaches to molding student’s behaviors and stop the misconduct. Unlike the cultures of other countries such as in Asia, America adopts the zero-tolerance policies which are appropriate for its situation. Fame Maxime, the Program Coordinator for Capital Partners for Education in Washington, DC, discussed in his article, “Zero Tolerance Policies and the School to Prison Pipeline,” and makes some essential arguments against the use of zero-tolerance policies in public schools in the United States (2018).
The author argues that the schools “need to reevaluate the zero-tolerance policies” and should adopt alternative disciplinary systems in order to help students who violate the rules rather than punishing them immediately. Although the “zero-tolerance policies” aims to discourage misbehaviors or misconducts, the policies push students into the juvenile justice system, which is “the pathway to prison.
” Often, most suspension or expulsion is the result of minor misconduct. The group that is most vulnerable under these policies is the minorities, especially African-American students. In order to help the students of color, schools try to maintain fair punishment by encouraging people to exclude their personal feeling and perspective during the decision making, and follow the “blind-justice approach.” Finally, Maxime recommends the use of “restorative practices” in order to create a better and positive school environment (Maxime, 2018).
The first concern of Maxime is that schools should review the zero-tolerance policies that are taking place, add alternative disciplinary methods, and avoid immediate punishments.
The author is right about this point because he encourages the school to reconsider for most unfortunate students. Many students who violate the school rules have a harsh family situation at home, and a lot of them are from families of low socioeconomic status. When facing out-of-school suspension, these students might not have anyone who could help them at home, and they will have the freedom to go wherever they want.
If schools continue punishing student violations by using zero-tolerance policies, they will not be able to help students. Under these policies, schools usually suspend and expel students for minor misconducts such as “bringing any weapons to school,” cursing, threatening others and the like (Maxime, 2018). They try to stop any violations, minor or not, in order to prevent further crimes consistently and systematically. For example, public schools prohibit any type of weapons to be brought in school. The parents of students in some rural areas are hunters and keeping a knife with them is normal. They also have no problem with their children to keep a knife. These students may bring a cutting knife to school without any intention to harm anyone. However, they still face serious discipline because of this policy. This is one example of the prevention techniques that U.S. law enforcement uses in order to discourage the actions that could cause serious crimes (Maxime, 2018). By focusing on the minor misconducts, Maxime overlooks the fact that such students and their parents have already known and accepted the written school policies during the enrollment periods.
In comparison to the majority of the population, students from minority groups are affected by the zero-tolerance policies the most, especially the African-American students (Maxime, 2018). This issue sheds light on the problem of the stereotype against minority students. Naturally, the decision-makers are not freed from their personal perspective when punishing students. However, in a real-life situation when the violation threatens or distracts the classroom climate, the only option for the teacher is to suspend students out of the classroom or to go to the principal’s office to receive further actions.
The “blind justice approach” which aims to be fair and just, according to Maxime, does not work due to a lack of teacher preparation in a multiethnic classroom setting (2018). Schools encourage decision-makers to exclude their personal feeling and perspective during the decision making process. In his suggestion that the lack of teacher preparation in classroom management, for example, plays an important role in the failure of this approach, Maxime has failed to take into consideration that there are other factors behind this issue. For instance, it might be the lack of funding in School Corporations to fund projects that could help the expelled or suspended students to be able to learn when they are in out-of-school settings. In Logansport, for example, the students who are expelled from school work at home and at the same time make close communication with their teachers. The school provides them with laptops if they need one. In addition, teaching is a full-time job, and the teacher is responsible for the progress and the well-being of each student. The teacher might not have enough time to deal with the repeated misbehaviors, and then refer the students to their principal’s office.
Maxime suggests that the resolution to this issue is to use “restorative practices” in dealing with violations of school policies and regulations rather than the “harsh punishment to deter students from crime” (Maxime, 2018). As an adult, we naturally do not want to tolerate misbehaviors, and if feasible, want to correct them immediately. We tend to be more experienced in our life-long journey than the adolescent in public school settings. The only problem for us is how we approach them. In the “restorative system,” according to Maxime, we could restore self-esteem and value in the students, and help them learn from their mistakes rather than keeping them away from violations (2018). Life is trial and error, and nobody is free from any mistake in their life. For example in Asia, when two students fight each other, they are asked to see their teachers and the principal. During the meeting, both students attend at the same time, and they are asked to apologize to each other and make a peace or reconciliation plan between them. Some of the plans include cleaning the school together for a period of time and helping to organize the principal’s office or school library. This is one example of the restorative practices that schools in Asia use today.
Through Maxime’s point of view, we could clearly see that the current zero-tolerance policies in public schools in the United States do more harm than good. Therefore, there is a need for reevaluation of the policies as well as alternative ways to this problem. Since suspension and expulsion are commonly used to deter misbehaviors in school, the practices instead create negative consequences that greatly affect student academic success in their life. However, the use of zero-tolerance policies is appropriate for most situations in America.
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