Problem: School officials throughout the United States have adopted zero tolerance policies to address student discipline, resulting in an increase in out-of-school suspensions and expulsions. The introduction of police on school campuses also increased the referral of students to the juvenile courts. Although school personnel generally view zero tolerance policies as a constructive measure, this approach denies recent research on adolescent brain development that mischief is a foreseeable derivative of adolescence.
Methods: A case study method examined one juvenile court's innovative multi-integrated systems approach related to the adverse trends associated with zero tolerance policies.
Findings: A multi-disciplinary protocol resulted in more effective youth assessments that reduced out-of-school suspensions and school referrals; increased graduation rates by 20%; and decreased delinquent felony rates by nearly 50%. The resulting protocol changed how the system responds to disruptive students by significantly reducing out-of-school suspensions and school referrals, and putting into place alternatives as well as providing community resources to address the underlying causes of the behavior.
Conclusion: A multi-systems approach that targets the reasons for disruptive behavior improves student educational and behavioral outcomes.
© 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.