August 15, 2007

The social costs of Zero Tolerance in the schools

APA convention preview

I recently came across an article stating that the public schools in New Orleans are now spending $20 million a year on private security at 22 schools. That's almost $1 million per school, up from about $23,000 per school back in the pre-Katrina day.

The social cost of such heightened school security – and in particular the "Zero Tolerance" policies – is the topic of a symposium at this weekend's American Psychological Association conference in San Francisco.

Research by the APA's Zero Tolerance Task Force found that discipline can actually increase bad behavior and school dropout rates. Punitive school policies also funnel racial and ethnic minority children directly from the school system into – you guessed it – the juvenile justice system.

The one-size-fits-all policies of the Zero Tolerance programs do not consider children’s lapses in judgment or developmental immaturity as a normal aspect of development, according to one of the researchers, Cecil Reynolds of Texas A&M University.

The seminar is at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 19. A list of the luminaries at this seminar is available online.

Photo credit: contraceptacon (Creative Commons license)