It’s Just a Bad Egg, Throw it Away

This post originally appeared on Reclaim Futures blog: http://www.reclaimingfutures.org/blog/node/2054

A carton comes with 12 eggs, so what’s the big deal to just toss the bad one? There are 11 left.

If only everything was that easy.

Yesterday, Advancement Project, along with partners the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, and the Alliance for Educational Justice released a policy paper titled, Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right: Why Zero Tolerance is Not the Solution to Bullying. The Advancement Project works to eliminate the overuse of harsh discipline policies in schools. In compliment of this release, Advancement Project and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network hosted a Twitter town hall.

So, what happened?

Conversation quickly started, with students, teachers, advocates, nonprofit professionals, and the general public all participating. The themes of bullying and zero-tolerance dominated the conversation. Bullying is an aggressive behavior that is intentional, involves an imbalance in power or strength, and is typically repeated overtime. Zero-tolerance policies take away discretion from teachers and principals, one strike and you’re out. Under zero-tolerance, sporks and scissors are considered “weapons.” Teachers and principals have no choice but to expel or arrest students. These policies just further students into the School-to-Prison Pipeline. The School-to-Prison Pipeline refers to the policies and practices that push schoolchildren out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

The critical deficiency in the zero-tolerance approach is that it fails to recognize that the concern over bullying is, at its core, the same concern that exists about harsh school discipline- namely, the widespread systemic failures to address the hostile and alienating learning environment that put all young people at risk. While there is no question that we must address the bullying and harassment of students, we must resist the urge to rely on exclusionary or criminal consequences unless they are absolutely necessary.

Some top tweets from the town hall:

@RWJF_VP: Great #bullychat from @adv_project going on right now.
@SaretaYoung: RT Students of color & LGBTQ stdnts r more likely 2b affected by STPP. More than 70% arrests in schools are Hispanic or Af.-Am. #bullychat
@DrKMTalbert: @adv_project teach students to care with each other. Provide policies & structures to support. Policies that bully won't work obv #bullychat
@LeidyRobledo: We Have a Bullying Problem in America. Is Making Bullying a Crime the Solution? #bullychat #Bullying” #LGBT. @adv_project today 5pm MT

To learn more about zero-tolerance policies, how they impact students of color and the LGBTQ community and recommendations, download a copy of our new report.