Zero Tolerance: America's Failed Solution to Gun Violence in Schools

Published: 2022-12-27
Zero Tolerance: America's Failed Solution to Gun Violence in Schools
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Education Law Government
Pages: 2
Wordcount: 534 words
5 min read

The United States continues to have a high rate of gun related violence in schools, years after the adoption of the Zero- Tolerance approach of dealing with indiscipline cases in schools. The term "zero tolerance" refers to policies developed with the purpose of punishing all offenses strictly, no matter how insignificant. The approach was developed in the United States in the 1980s to fight against the prevailing drug abuse and weapon violence at the time. Schools began to embrace zero tolerance policies by the 1990s broadening them to include not only drug possession but smoking and school disruption. Zero-tolerance punishments target both serious and less serious behavior and are designed to send a message that bad behaviour will not be tolerated (RussellJ & Kimberly, 2001).

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Proponents of corporal punishments in school settings argue that corporal punishment is a necessary means to maintain discipline and order in the public schools and a prerequisite to establishing the most effective atmosphere for learning and, as such, constitutes a proper object for state and school board regulation. This is because it is administered on the spot (Wasserman, 2001). However I disagree with this as Black Americans from various studies have been subjected to more punitive disciplinary strategies, such as corporal punishment, and receive fewer less serious disciplinary methods if referred to the justice systems. This supports the notion that some disproportionate punishments in school settings as there is actually no evidence that black Students have higher rates of indiscipline (Skiba & Peterson, 1999).

The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 further institutionalised zero tolerance policy as it mandated expulsion of one calendar year for weapon possession in schools. It also required that students who violate the law be referred to the criminal or juvenile justice system. Studies on effectiveness of suspension have shown that suspension cannot be said to be effective. Suspended students are most likely to repeat the behaviours leading to further suspension. Further it has been noted that suspended students are most likely to drop out of school. This means this mode of disciplining students has no impact on student positive behavioural change (Skiba & Peterson , 2000).

Research shows that referrals for drugs, weapons, and gang related behaviours constitute a small section that has led to suspension. This means zero tolerance policies have led to minor indiscipline cases which do not necessarily threaten school safety being referred to the criminal justice systems and suspension of students from school systems.

Project Save Act (Monell article) or similar legislation is beneficial and working to keep our schools safer as it is a more positive and preventive mechanism. These are effective as they emphasize building positive behavior rather than merely punishing inappropriate behaviour (Skiba & Peterson, 1999).


Skiba, R. J., & Knesting, K. (2001). Zero tolerance, zero evidence: An analysis of school disciplinary practice. New Directions for Youth Development, 2001(92), 17-43. doi:10.1002/yd.23320019204

Skiba, R., & Peterson , R. (2000, July 3rd). Journals.sagepub,com. Retrieved from

Skiba, R., & Peterson, R. (1999). The dark side of zero tolerance: Can punishment lead to safe schools?. The Phi Delta Kappan, 80(5), 372-382.

Wasserman, L. M. (2010). Corporal punishment in K-12 public school settings: Reconsideration of its constitutional dimensions thirty years after Ingraham v. Wright. Touro L. Rev., 26, 1029.

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