Support for zero-tolerance policies in schools has strong among teachers, but the policies don't make teachers or students feel safer, according to a new study from the University of Missouri and the University of Virginia.
Zero-tolerance policies for weapons and sometimes drugs have been adopted by some school districts wanting to deter student behavior by making it clear that actions would be met with automatic punishment.
"Teacher Support for Zero Tolerance is Associated with Higher Suspension Rates and Lower Feelings of Safety" was published in School Psychology Review. The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.
There is a relationship between zero-tolerance policies and higher rates of student suspension, said the study's lead author, Francis Huang, associate professor in the MU College of Education and Human Development.
Huang said the study didn't prove a cause-and-effect between the policies and higher student suspensions.
The study used data from a school climate survey of 10,000 teachers and 100,000 students in Virginia. Seventy-four percent of the teachers surveyed supported the use of zero tolerance as an effective discipline practice.
"These policies have lost popularity," Huang said. "Several national associations have urged schools not to use zero-tolerance policies. It's interesting to find the amount of support of zero-tolerance policies among teachers."
Researchers suggested potential alternative disciplinary strategies to zero-tolerance policies.
"One popular one out there is restorative practices," Huang said."It's mean to build relationships. That's one popular approach."
A 15-year-old student at a high school in Michigan last week shot and killed four of his fellow students. The student and his parents have been charged in the shooting.
Huang said he couldn't draw conclusions about the school shooting from the research.
"I'm cautious about that," Huang said.
One of the alternative strategies the researchers suggested was "threat assessment" involving addressing issues that lead to threatening behavior.
Huang said he also didn't want to make any connections to the Michigan situation with that aspect of the research, but co-author Dewey Cornell, professor at the University of Virginia, said threat assessment may have made a difference.
"All schools should use threat assessment," Cornell said in an email. "Threat assessment can prevent school shootings like the one that occurred in Michigan, although we do not know all of the facts about this particular case to know what actually happened. Threat assessment is not infallible, but there is good evidence of its effectiveness."
Most school shooters are white males. The current research didn't examine the races of the students getting suspended. Huang's previous research has examined racial disparities in school suspensions, noting that behaviors don't account for the racial disparities.
Schools should abandon zero-tolerance policies, Cornell said.
"Zero tolerance is a failed disciplinary strategy that remains appealing because it seems simple and straightforward," Cornell said "However, removing students from school has mostly negative effects and does not address the problem or concern underlying the behavior."
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Zero-tolerance policies in schools related to higher suspension rates
Source : https://news.yahoo.com/zero-tolerance-policies-strong-teacher-165734550.html780