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The last two decades have seen public schools increasingly seeking effective means to manage both trivial and serious breaches of student behavior. (1) The means chosen from among the possibilities has typically been the zero-tolerance discipline concept. (2) The concept has become very attractive to overstressed and overworked school administrators because it attempts to take subjective decision-making out of the discipline equation. (3) Therein, however, lies the civil liberties question inherent in the application of the zero-tolerance concept: Can such a plan purporting to remove subjectivity from the attaching of guilt to punishment really be consistent with the constitutional guarantee of due process? The headlines are typical. A student innocently brings something to school that a school administrator sees as fitting a particular definition in a rule, and the child is suspended for a prescribed period of time. (4) The average person hearing about this as a horror story on television typically thinks that the school official is either unreasonable or foolish. For example, Twin Peaks Charter School in Colorado expelled Shannon Coslet, a ten year-old student, from school because her mother put a small knife in Shannon's lunchbox so that she could slice an apple. (5) Shannon, cognizant about the school's policy against weapons, turned the knife over to her teacher. Her reward for unusual thoughtfulness for a child her age was the mandatory expulsion required by the school's zero-tolerance discipline policy. (6)

Professional & Technical
March 22
Thomas Goode Jones School of Law

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