by Arjun Singh ’12
Students go to school every day to socialize, participate in extracurricular activities and, most importantly, learn. However, negative influences such as drugs, alcohol and violence can infect the school environment and disrupt the safe haven that students need to succeed in school.
MCPS schools use zero tolerance policies to limit these negative influences and promote safer school environments. Such policies do not tolerate dangerous and harmful behaviors and therefore have universal punishments that must be applied regardless of the situation. Any student who commits an inappropriate behavior that applies to an MCPS zero tolerance policy, such as bomb threats, violent physical attacks and possession of firearms, is, regardless of circumstances, subject to automatic consequences such as police referral and recommendations for expulsion. However, any of these decisions may be overruled if irrefutable evidence is provided.
The necessity of zero tolerance policies becomes evident when inappropriate behavior starts to affect learning. Let’s take weapon possession, for example. If a student brings a knife to school with no intent to use it, he or she will receive the same punishment as another student who brings a knife with intent to harm staff or students. Even though the students may have different intentions, both receive the exact same punishment. MCPS implements this policy because any hazardous behavior must be forbidden in school no matter the students’ intentions or past actions. The excuses “I wasn’t going to use it!” or “It was just a joke,” although common, are unacceptable. The fact is, however miniscule an inappropriate action may seem, any form of deplorable behavior on school grounds is unacceptable. The students that break the rules implemented by the school should face grave consequences for harmfully impacting the education and experience of school for other students.
Schools have a responsibility to ensure that students have a safe and secure learning environment and to create the best possible school. This includes deterring drug use, fighting and harassment, and an effective means is through harsh punishments that discourage students from breaking the rules. Zero tolerance policies make sure that any behavior that violates school rules is punished properly. If students realize that their actions have serious consequences, they will be less tempted to perform these actions.
Many people probably believe schools are one of the safest environments for students; they would be wrong. According to the Sherwood school climate survey from the 2009-2010 school year, 20 percent of students do not feel safe in school and over 50 percent believe that bullying is a problem. Students cannot learn in an unsafe environment. One of the most important aspects of a child’s life is his or her education, but unsafe school environments disrupt this education and demonstrate the need for the implementation of zero tolerance policies.
A school builds the foundation for the lives of its students, but how can schools help students if they do not provide the best education? Students need to feel secure in school, and the best way to do that is through strict punishment. Schools need to place safety of students at the top of its priorities and the only way to do so is through discipline.