Stop Zero-Tolerance Policies in American Schools
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A good education is an aspect of our lives that most of us take for granted. Many of us live in communities of privilege, communities where we have the comfort of not having to question the quality of our education. However, schools in inner cities are trapped in a vicious cycle where students not only are deprived of opportunity, they are funneled into lives of incarceration.
Are these really the ideals education should be espousing?
In a world where we praise equality and believe that everyone should have the chance to improve their lives, challenges to education in poverty-stricken areas remains a prevalent problem that threatens future generations. Rather than providing students the opportunities to improve their lives through education, the school-to-prison pipeline claims thousands of young lives. At the heart of this problem is a draconian justice system perpetrated by zero-tolerance policies.
Inner city schools exist in communities where violence is common, a culture perpetuated by schools through the use of traditional systems of power such as the police in order to exert control. While students in wealthier communities are encouraged to pursue the American Dream with a limitless future, students in inner cities are trained to live in toxic environments of oppression and punishment. In an effort to make schools safer, they have instead normalized punitive public policies, diverting the few resources inner city schools have towards strict security measures. These are known as zero-tolerance policies, which fuel the school-to-prison pipeline.
With these policies, students in inner cities face harsh discipline, involving suspensions and expulsions, along with contact with the criminal justice system. Especially at risk are minority students, who face these punishments at a disproportionate rate compared to their white counterparts. This causes a vicious cycle because this causes educators to hold negative assumptions about student populations as a whole, and zero tolerance policies exploit these stereotypes of students as disruptive and unwilling to learn.
As students live in this environment where they are increasingly penalized for everything they do, and where strict control is exerted over their lives in school, they become normalized to the system of state surveillance and control, and they are redirected into the criminal justice system instead of being put down the path towards graduation. The incarceration of these students today increases their likelihood of incarceration further down the line, which promotes an ugly cycle of incarceration, poverty, and poor education systems. While students in rich neighborhoods are able to flourish and prosper, students in lower-income areas are left to rot in prisons, with their potentials abandoned and their futures branded as hopeless. This cannot continue.
In order for students to be able to effectively learn in inner city schools, they need to be in an environment conducive to learning, not one in which zero tolerance policies control their lives. Thus, zero-tolerance policies must be repealed. Rather than making schools safer, they are doing more harm than good. Evidence is increasingly showing that these policies for extreme discipline are resulting in higher rates of repeat offenses and dropouts. Even the Department of Education is doubting zero-tolerance policies, as one report noted that they cause a greater possibility of misbehavior, and doubted that zero tolerance would have any deterrent effect on students. However, we need to do more. Sign this petition to call on our congressmen and governor to start repealing these disastrous policies that have crippled low-income American areas and ruined thousands of lives.
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