Thursday, January 09, 2014

EDUCATION - Questioning Zero Tolerance Rules in Schools

"Are some U.S. school discipline policies too punitive?" PBS Newshour 1/8/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour):  The Obama administration made a big move today on the question of school discipline policies around the country.  It issued new guidelines to urge school administrators to ensure they are not being overly zealous with strict punishments for students that are sometimes called zero tolerance rules.

The Departments of Education and Justice warned schools to make sure they are being fair and equitable and that they are complying with civil rights laws.

Two years ago, the NewsHour's Tom Bearden looked into a story in Texas that was drawing international attention to the unintended consequences of such policies, often for minority students.

TOM BEARDEN (Newshour):  Seventeen-year-old Diane Tran is still upset after spending 24 hours in jail for missing class.  The 11th grade honor student in Willis, Texas, was locked up for contempt of court after being warned by a justice of the peace to stop skipping school.

The judge who issued that warning in April sentenced her to jail last month when the absences continued.

LANNY MORIARTY, judge:  If you let one of them run loose, what are you going to do with the rest of them?  Let them go too?

TOM BEARDEN:  But after Houston's KHOU reported her story, the international spotlight fell on Tran and Texas' school truancy laws, laws that were originally crafted in the mid-19th century to keep kids in class and prevent parents from pulling them out to work in the fields and then later in factories.

But for students like Tran, life is more complicated than it used to be.  She is a straight-A student who holds down two jobs in order to help support her younger sister and another sibling in college.

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