USF Magazine Fall 2012

Volume 54 | Number 3


Pipeline to Prison?

| USF News

Do zero tolerance school policies go too far?

Perhaps, for certain groups of students, according to USF graduate student Eric S. Hall and assistant professor Zorka Karanxha.

In a recently published article, the researchers provide a critical examination of how zero tolerance policies are applied and what happens to the young people who all-too-often find themselves victimized by the policies.

"In essence, we are witnessing students who misbehave in school, doing things that are not a threat to public safety, being arrested and punished in the same way as those students who constitute actual safety threats," they write. "This practice results in the funneling of many future contributing members of our society into juvenile facilities while perpetuating the marginalization of our nation's most at-risk students."

Throughout their article, the authors show how the criminalization of low-level infractions and minor violence — the sort that were once easily handled or ignored by schools — and the growing presence of law enforcement "resource officers," combined with harsh disciplinary practices, such as suspension and expulsion, has led to increasing arrests and more.

Hall and Karanxha argue for moving away from punitive methods toward more development and educational approaches applied to student discipline and misbehavior.

"The youth of today are not the enemy, but our future," they conclude. "Our commitment to them, their safety and their success is evident by the way we treat, nurture and respect each child. We need to close the pathway that takes students from schools today, and places them in jails tomorrow."

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