The Instigator
vekoma123
Pro (for)
Tied
3 Points
The Contender
WhoWouldnt
Con (against)
Tied
3 Points

Are zero tolerance policies a broken system in schools?

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/18/2014 Category: Education
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,126 times Debate No: 46175
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (2)

 

vekoma123

Pro

*Reuploaded since my last opponent was a troll account*

In this debate, we will be discussing whether or not zero tolerance policies in schools:

Pro: are causing more harm than good.
Con: are making schools more secure and safe.

...

Structure:

R1: Acceptance and CON's first argument
R2: PRO's and CON's rebuttals and arguments
R3: PRO's and CON's rebuttals and closing arguments

Let's start!
WhoWouldnt

Con

Challenge accepted! Good luck to you.

My argument will maintain that there are a few (certainly not all) Zero-Tolerance Policies that are helping keep schools safe.

For those that don't know, Zero-Tolerance Policies (in education) are policies in schools that does not allow administrators to make a judgement call on the circumstances by which the policy was broken. In other words: no exceptions if the policy is violated. These policies are typically in place for rules that should be adhered by all students. Zero-Tolerance Policies are usually made to prevent serious acts of violence and illicit drug use (typically weapons and drugs brought to school).(Source 1)

As a volunteer for an elementary school with a Zero-Tolerance Policy, I've witnessed first hand, an 8 year-old (3rd grade) student bring an unsheathed 10" blade to school. He got caught showing it to his friends and escorted to the principals office where he admitted that he didn't want his classmates to pick on him and that he gets very upset (he never mentioned whether he would use it or not). One of the students he showed the knife to said "he told us not to tell," clearly showing the student knew it was wrong. I was one of the adults who saw the knife and had to leave a written statement and later give a verbal account of what I'd witnessed. This is not a fully functional adult brain talking about very emotional issues while carrying a potential deadly weapon. This student was suspended for a week and received counseling to ensure he understood that he shouldn't bring stuff like that to school. Granted, this is not the norm for many students; however, this young man could have hurt someone (including himself had he played during recess while the knife was still in his front pocket).

If the policy is well written and clearly available for parents/students to get information about at the beginning of and throughout each year, it is a contract that is fair. No matter who you are, what you look like, or otherwise, if you break one of these policies the punishment is the same. You cannot fault the policy for being unfair or biased. Most schools have Zero-Tolerance Policies, so it should be pretty well known by parents/students that these policies are in place. Any school I went to, I was well aware that bringing a firearm or illicit drugs to school was grounds for immediate expulsion from school. While my opponent may point to minority students being more heavily penalized, I've not seen any Zero-Tolerance Policy that states minorities will be punished more often than the majority and hence it is not the policy, though it certainly could be the human error in enforcement.

Other than my experience there are some interesting facts to be aware of:

Since the heavy implementation of Zero-Tolerance Policies in 1994 (Source 1), youth violence has gone down per capita over the last 16 years. (Source 3).

"According to the CDC"s School Associated Violent Death Study, between 1% and 2% of all homicides among school-age children happen on school grounds or on the way to and from school or during a school sponsored event. So the vast majority of students will never experience lethal violence at school." (Source 2)

Violence in schools or having to do with schools is very low and it seems possible that it has to do with such rigid policies on issues that should not be taken lightly. Parents and students realize that educational facilities take these offenses very seriously and that no one should be exempt (granted human follow-through can present certain problems). I wonder if my opponent is willing to tamper with the current policies in a way that may risk the safety of students while they are at school.

Now while broad policies (i.e. anything considered a weapon is grounds for immediate expulsion) in many cases are too rigid and cause problems; however, there are similar problems with laws but we still must abide by them to avoid punishment. Students need to be prepared to face serious consequences when they break serious rules.

Suffice it to say, in practical terms, these Zero-Tolerance Policies should be pretty easy to follow for the average law-abiding student if they are written appropriately by the educational organization and consistently followed. Keeping weapons at home is pretty standard for most students. Secondly, do students really need to bring illicit drugs and firearms to school? Without the drugs and weapons at school, it is definitely less likely that a student lose their life and less likely that a student will be exposed to excessive violence while at their school. Violence at/around school events are remarkably low (source 2) with the policies currently as they are. Finally, while some places in the country have unjustly punished certain students; (Finger gun, razor blade for shaving, box cutting tool for work, Pop Tart "gun", etc...), it is certainly not the norm and a well written policy would help resolve these issues. My opponent may like to point to these arguments as leverage, and while some of these caused detriment to the students life, it is not an insurmountable set back.

Ultimately, students should be encouraged to follow the rules and given guidance to succeed in life. In many policies there should be wiggle room for minor (and even some major) issues, but things like firearms and illicit drugs (which is illegal even outside of school policy and law enforces them with zero-tolerance) should be taken very seriously and punishment should be swift, equal to the crime, and fair. Even though not all Zero-Tolerance Policies are well-written and enforced, their are at least a couple items that should not be brought to school for any reason by any student.

Sources:
1.http://en.wikipedia.org...(schools)

2.http://www.cdc.gov...

3. http://www.cdc.gov...
Debate Round No. 1
vekoma123

Pro

I would love to thank my opponent for being apart of this debate.

From the same website, I found a more clearer definition of my argument. It's similar to what my opponent said, but I will define it more specifically: 'A zero-tolerance policy in schools is a policy of punishing any infraction of a rule, regardless of accidental mistakes, ignorance, or extenuating circumstances.'[1] It's pretty straight forward that we can say that, in other words, those in school can be punished for breaking a rule, no matter what the circumstances, reasons, or present evidence are.

Now let's take a look at the reason(s) why zero tolerance policies in schools exist:

'In schools, Zero Tolerance refers to the concept that certain types of disciplinary offenses will not be tolerated and automatically result in suspension or expulsion. In 1994, after horrific incidents of school violence like that which happened in Columbine, Colorado, the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 was passed, requiring all states to create laws mandating expulsion for students in possession of guns on school property. The intent of Zero Tolerance policies is to promote an atmosphere of safety, to deter other students from committing similar actions and to recognize and provide assistance to students who show signs of being capable of widespread acts of violence.'[2]

I read your firsthand account regarding a student bringing a knife to school and telling those that they showed it to to not tell anyone, teachers and administration for that matter. I understand that intention didn't seem very clear, and I understand that consequences do happen, in this case a negative consequence for a potentially harmful item on hand. The problem i see with it is that taking their age into consideration, it may have been more appropriate to have counseling alone, and not a suspension. It didn't seem like they were treating the child like a criminal, which is great, but because there was no malicious intent present, this is an example of a relatively harsh consequence being given because, even though they could've been capable of being violent since they had a weapon, there were no true signs that showed that they were going to act on it. Having a general discussion with the student themselves would've been more appropriate in that matter, unless there was some level of acting out.

Of course, if you bring in a weapon or drugs into a school, there will be some level of consequence. The problem is, by having these punishments being the same, there is no level of discussion or opportunity to take situations case by case to determine a reasonable punishment, which is what I will be getting into in a little bit. Minority student wise, I will agree that the policy itself doesn't call for bias on race or gender, but because of stereotypes and ways that people are raised, depending on those factors along with family and environment, it seems to come to a point where, as you said, human error in enforcement can overrun reasonable punishment just because of minority bias. If schools were not required to hold such a strict policy, there can be a level of reason involved which can take situations case by case, and not treat students like criminals, regardless of race. Great resource: (http://www.cnn.com...). I cannot prove that all situations regarding the statistics involve these policies, but because modern discipline on such levels are based on these policies, it is likely. 'African-American students also "make up 35% of students suspended once, 44% of those suspended more than once, and 36% of students expelled. Further, more than 50% of students who were involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement are Hispanic or African-American," the report found.' (Same resource)

I looked at the sources you have given me, along with the next few following paragraphs, and it's quite a good resource and set of arguments for your side. Unfortunately, with homicidal statistics having some level of direct link to harsh penalties, that still doesn't cover drug possession and fights. Of course, not all students try to kill one-another, and I do agree that weapon possession with criminal intent is a problem, but that is just on criminal intent. Not all cases have involved real, harmful weapons, because there have been cases where kids have brought in or made gun-like objects, and then charged and arrested with criminal intent, which aren't proven to be there. [3] Also, I would like you to explain what you mean by 'I wonder if my opponent is willing to tamper with the current policies in a way that may risk the safety of students while they are at school.'

I'm not saying that students should possess weapons or drugs in the school environment, because that is obviously inappropriate and could, and I mean 'could' harm students, teachers, and the school administration themselves, but these policies give off some level of paranoia [4] just because anyone could find one thing suspicious when it could end up being an ignorant assumption that wastes the time of students and prevent that from learning anything in school by being removed under false assumptions. Even if it's not the norm, and even if it has some level of decrease in school violence, these cases have still made criminals out of students, bad reputations for false assumptions, and even if it is apparently not insurmountable, such unreasonable consequence do happen and may continue to happen if we don't do anything about it.

Again, as I agree that possession of weapons and drugs should be enforced as not appropriate and to not be brought to schools for any reason, the level of paranoia for examples of students bringing in knives or 'guns' without criminal intent is where the line needs to be drawn, especially when concerns are brought up by the student and they turn themselves in because they don't want to cause harm, and would not cause harm in the first place. [5]

I await your rebuttal.

Source 1: http://en.wikipedia.org...
Source 2: http://childparenting.about.com...
Source 3: http://bigstory.ap.org...
Source 4: http://www.criminaljusticedegreesguide.com...
Source 5: http://childparenting.about.com...
WhoWouldnt

Con

When I said "would my opponent change policies at the risk of increasing potential violence and drug problems at school?" in round 1, what I would like is for vekoma123 to address if he thinks he can eliminate Zero-Tolerance Policies in a way that will not increase the violence and drug use in school and if he'd even be willing to attempt that given that schools (or any school sponsored event) only attribute 1-2% of homicides among school-age children and the violence has been slightly decreasing each year since 1994. (Source 2)

Could you please respond to that?

In response to the gender/race bias of punishment, I would like to express that we stay on point to the original claim made by pro which is: are the POLICIES causing more harm than good? Not, are the PEOPLE enforcing them causing more harm than good. I want to make the distinction that I would strongly oppose any favortism or bias based race, color, gender, etc. but it is not the policy that is causing this. I think it isn't the policy getting in the way, but the people. Could you imagine if we stopped everything with human error in it, we'd have to stop most, if not all, human activity. So I don't think the race/gender bias argument carries any weight to this particular debate.

"Having a general discussion with the student themselves would've been more appropriate in that matter, unless there was some level of acting out." - vekoma123, Round 2

-And, where do we draw the line on this "acting out"? Is bringing a deadly weapon to school "acting out" or is pulling it out and showing it to students and telling them not to say anything about it, "acting out"? Or, is it when slashing motions with the weapon start taking place that we consider the student "acting out"?

Also, Take a look at the Zero Tolerance Policy for drugs and alcohol at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvannia (http://www.lhup.edu...). Granted this is for college level students, but there were no distinctions made about which age group we are talking about. Perhaps Zero-Tolerance Policies could be better understood at the college level and students at this age have more fully developed brains to know why the policy is the way it is and what it is trying to accomplish. Couldn't this be a Zero-Tolerance Policy that is doing more good than harm? Do you have reason to believe these students are on a collision course with being repeat offenders in the justice system?

Consider also, that parents have a role to play when their kids are K-12 in helping them understand and supporting a school district in keeping the schools safe, understanding and enforcing of policies included. If the parent knows about the policy and chooses to send their child to that school, then they agree with the policy. If the parent doesn't know, then is ignorance really an excuse (most contracts don't seem to think so)? For a frame of reference on these policies look at Vancouver School District's 2012-2013 Zero Tolerance for drugs. (http://www.vansd.org...)

"Of course, not all students try to kill one-another, and I do agree that weapon possession with criminal intent is a problem, but that is just on criminal intent" -vekoma123, round 2

-So you agree that there are criteria that we can make a blanket statement on (1. weapon possession, 2. criminal intent)? What if the writing of a Zero-Tolerance policy included expulsion of a person on campus with a potentially deadly weapon AND proven to have violent/criminal intent. If we accounted for the intent within the policy itself, couldn’t we have a “well-written Zero-Tolerance Policy”? One that would consider the intent. As I said, a well-written Zero-Tolerance Policy could be effective.

I would state also, that whether or not there was intent to distribute drugs shouldn't come into play as they are illegal for K-12 students without exception. The law will impose punishment on kids carrying drugs regardless of their location. So a Zero-Tolerance drug policy in schools is appropriate in expecting consequences with actions that are illegal. No need for a kid to bring illicit/illegal drugs (which zero-tolerance policies are usually indicating for public school districts again check out Vancouver School District's policy as they define which drugs they have Zero-Tolerance for http://www.vansd.org...) into a school.

According to politifact.com, Florida arrested over 12,000 school kids. Considering the number of students in florida it breaks down to less than 0.5% (approx. 12000+ students arressted in School in Florida/2.6 million students of the Florida student population) that were arrested. Zero-Tolerance Policies don't seem to be much of a problem for the other 99.5% of the population to follow them. While I do have sympathy for the kids who are affected by it, it doesn't seem the policy is the problem. Plus, shouldn't students be responsible for their actions? (Source 3 & 4)

Considering YIC (Youth-In-Custody) schools are available to students who have been imprisoned and their recidivism rates (students that re-offend or come back to the justice system) are low (approx. 20-45%) , it is possible for students to "get out" of the "prison pipeline" that Zero-Tolerance Policies may have caused. These students have plenty of opportunity to correct their mistake and a very small percent of students are actually being arrested in schools and continuing on as criminals. (Source 5)

The point is, you may not be seeing the rock you're standing on for the horizon. This may be a case of not seeing the benefit and wanting to press the detriment as the only piece of evidence to this complicated puzzle.

Sources:
1.http://en.wikipedia.org......(schools)

2.http://www.cdc.gov......

3. http://www.politifact.com...

4. http://teaching.about.com...

5. http://jjie.org...

6. http://www.vansd.org...;

7. http://www.lhup.edu...;
Debate Round No. 2
vekoma123

Pro

Well you definitely got me in a tight bind there. I will definitely have to agree with you on how those who enforce the policies are the ones who are practically destroying the fair and true intention of them. Unfortunately, there"s really no way of telling what that is, but there seems to be a level of harsh authority being taken with such a broad set of rules, or policies for that matter. It"s the same way of how the U.S. is practically a police state with how people are handling the Constitution, but that"s a topic for another discussion. Schools obviously aren"t playing "Big Brother", but the thing is, schools will have different policies with their own written out, detailed punishments, but unfortunately human error and judgment can influence a whole different aspect of consequences. That being said, it kinda meets a mid-point there that calls for a change in both the policies and enforcement.

if teachers and administration were able to put common sense and critical thinking into how they handle situations case-by-case, which they should be doing in the first place, there may be a level of compromise to be made where abuse of such power isn"t present.

"-And, where do we draw the line on this "acting out"? Is bringing a deadly weapon to school "acting out" or is pulling it out and showing it to students and telling them not to say anything about it, "acting out"? Or, is it when slashing motions with the weapon start taking place that we consider the student "acting out"?"

The way I see it, and you do have a great point there, is that if violent intention and assault do occur and are present, than that would call for some level of harsh punishment. Even if they know they are in the wrong, but don"t physically act on it, then yes, some level of counseling or a group talk with the parents is necessary.

Obviously college students will have better judgment than children or high schoolers would when it comes to drug and alcohol possession, but then again, yeah, college parties. The thing is though, drugs and alcohol are easily abused and pose harm no matter what. There aren"t any Hello Kitty bubble drugs or pop-tart shaped drugs that are made out to be assumed to be possessed with criminal intent, but apparently there"s no age distinctions. I mean, possessing them is one thing, and yes schools have their regulations, but using them is another. Practically a gun control debate here, but does that mean that zero tolerance policies need some level of regulation? Also, I found it interesting how the college I went to doesn"t discipline such menial "offenses" like those crazy examples, because they are able to distinguish between good and bad judgment.

There is definitely some level of parental involvement with the policies themselves, I will agree with you on that. Then again, they are sending their children to a school that could *potentially* create some level of issues that could involve parents to step in and defend their child, which will be addressed later on in this argument. Not saying that every child is a criminal or will cause a problem, but I feel most of the upbringing of how children should be should be the responsibility of the parent to help them distinguish between right and wrong, not just the school to tell them what is and isn"t.

"-So you agree that there are criteria that we can make a blanket statement on (1. weapon possession, 2. criminal intent)? What if the writing of a Zero-Tolerance policy included expulsion of a person on campus with a potentially deadly weapon AND proven to have violent/criminal intent. If we accounted for the intent within the policy itself, couldn"t we have a "well-written Zero-Tolerance Policy"? One that would consider the intent. As I said, a well-written Zero-Tolerance Policy could be effective."

Bingo, now we are on the same page. Having more in-depth policies with criminal intent would make it so much more convenient and easier to handle, plus reputations would not be destroyed by teachers who think pop-tarts can pose safety hazards, and administration wouldn"t be making the educational system their slave.

Of course I will agree that illegal drug possession on school ground or not is a crime, everyone is aware of that, and yes, punishment should be given because of it being an illegal crime, but I"m seeing in it that it counts for illegal narcotics and controlled substances only, and I mean only. I forgot to mention an example of how these drug policies also affect those who possess non-illegal, prescription drugs and still get in trouble just for having them within reach. (https://www.youtube.com... - 6 minutes, 43 seconds in). Also, in that video, a student was expelled because when police checked their car under suspicion, they found marijuana and a small fishing knife. Forget the marijuana, they only suspended them for carrying a small knife, in a tackle box, in their car, distant from the school itself, without criminal intent in the slightest"...for fishing! How does this get justified?

With the Florida situation, even if it is a small amount, that doesn"t mean that the policies have been a problem, or rather the enforcement of them. You could say that a small percentage of people voted for one presidential candidate that didn"t win, but their votes still count. Students of course should be responsible for their actions, but what responsibility do students hold for "offenses" that, critically observed, pose absolutely no harm at all, regardless of location?

I"m also seeing racial profiling being mentioned in there as well, with relevance to the Trayvon incident. Again, as much as I am willing to change my stance into having enforcement being more of an issue than the policies themselves, it still doesn"t make it okay. Oh, and interesting article here regarding that. Seems like the Obama administration is actually taking some level of authority over something that seems rather reasonable. (http://www.pbs.org...)

'"Considering YIC (Youth-In-Custody) schools are available to students who have been imprisoned and their recidivism rates (students that re-offend or come back to the justice system) are low (approx. 20-45%)'

20-45% seems rather high in one way of viewing it, but if that isn"t making a great impact, than I guess there isn"t much of a problem to address. I do agree that YIC schools are great alternatives, but do all offenses being addressed under the policies really need to call for legal action and imprisonment? Again, it"s all based on judgment and error. If the students have caused or created a serious offense that truly jeopardizes the school environment, then sure, take them away to those alternative locations.

"

I would like to thank my opponent for taking the time to be apart of this debate. I definitely stand corrected on differentiating the difference between the policies and the enforcement of such policies, though I do stand on my platform where there really needs to be some level of regulation of these policies, and for offenses to be taken case-by-case, and not umbrella"d under one single punishment. Hopefully we will all see changes in the near future, because this is definitely a tough topic to talk about.

-Vekoma123
WhoWouldnt

Con

Seeing as my opponent didn't have a chance to make a case (other than his initial stance) during his first round and I did, I will simply post my appreciation for starting a debate on a very important topic. I was quite pleased with his conduct and wish him the best of luck in future debates. I look forward to seeing the results of this debate.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Ameliamk1 2 years ago
Ameliamk1
A well-fought debate without a single forfeited round (a rarity these days).

Ultimately I think it comes down to the fact that pro is simply right, and has a better case against the absolute morality that schools can often practice.

I often appreciate empirical evidence, but found Con's unconvincing. His personal example did not display any alternative situations where a student may be far less to blame, nor did it differentiate a relative consequential system from an absolute one. Additionally, Con's statistics were very general; many factors have resulted in a lowering youth violence rate, and I saw no reason to believe that on the same year concealed carry was legalized, that it was in fact zero-tolerance policies that began the decline of violent crimes.

While I am giving the argument points to Pro, I felt he conceded far too much to Con. There is an important distinction between a compliment and a surrender, and Pro was tenderly walking that line. With that said, he did make the necessary points to reinforce his high-ground.

Excellent job from both of you, and keep on debating!
Posted by WhoWouldnt 2 years ago
WhoWouldnt
I didn't realize how hard this topic would be to debate on the con side. I think I'm more pro to this issue, but it is fun to play devil's advocate.
Posted by vekoma123 2 years ago
vekoma123
Cool beans, I look forward to the debate.
Posted by WhoWouldnt 2 years ago
WhoWouldnt
I like the debate idea, I hope not to disappoint. Good luck to you vekoma123, I'm fairly new to this myself.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Josh_b 2 years ago
Josh_b
vekoma123WhoWouldntTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: equal sourced, equal conduct, equal spelling. Howerver, pro concedes on a certain point where ZTP's are justified, and that is to violence in schools.
Vote Placed by Ameliamk1 2 years ago
Ameliamk1
vekoma123WhoWouldntTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.