CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Thompson on Zero Tolerance in Schools

Jeremy L Thompson has posted Eliminating Zero Tolerance Policies in Schools: Miami-Dade Public School's Approach (Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal, Vol. 2016, No. 2, 2016) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world. As a result, taxpayers spend over several billion dollars a year on prison costs. At a time where the United States has the highest incarceration rate and the highest amount of debt in history, saving money by reducing the prison population should be one of the highest priorities of U.S. citizens. More importantly, despite the fact that the U.S. Criminal Justice System is “race neutral,” racial minorities represent a disproportionately higher rate of the United States prison population despite the fact that they represent only a small fraction of the U.S.

Many prison systems as well as schools use zero-tolerance policies. Zero-tolerance policies are a popular feature of the United States Criminal Justice System and school discipline. Zero-tolerance policies in schools result in high suspension rates and expulsion rates among students in general, but disproportionately affect minority students, especially African-Americans because students who have been suspended or expelled are more likely than not to end up in the Criminal Justice System. As a result, zero-tolerance policies have created a pipeline from school to prison. To save money by decreasing the prison population and to stop the disparate impact of minorities, school systems should eliminate zero-tolerance policies from school discipline.

Adopting Critical Race Theory, this Article offers insight into the causes of racial inequality in America in general and in schools specifically. Adopting Restorative Justice Theory, this Article also argues that alternatives to zero-tolerance policies are more sufficient disciplinary policies than zero-tolerance policies. In this Article, I will examine the alternative disciplinary policies that the Miami-Dade County Public School District (MDCPS) has adopted as a potential model for other school districts. After adopting alternatives to school discipline, Miami-Dade County reduced school-related arrests, expulsions, and suspensions. Schools can not only play their part in reducing discrimination, but schools can also play their part in reducing U.S. debt by eliminating zero-tolerance policies, which will shut off the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

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The important thing is not whether the incarceration rates for minorities are proportionate to their representation in the general population, but whether they are proportionate to their representation in the criminal population. It is not the responsibility of the penal system to compensate for differences in crime rates among various population groups.

Posted by: Gary Hill | Aug 21, 2016 10:00:16 AM

It's the school system's and the penal system's responsibilities to make sure that its actors are applying laws the same, no matter the race of the offenders.

Posted by: Jeremy L. Thompson | Jul 27, 2017 6:41:59 PM

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