For years a body of troubling evidence has been building that reveals racially discriminatory practices in school disciplinary measures. Black and Latino children are more likely to be disciplined, be more severely disciplined, and are more frequently are suspended or expelled or sent to special alternative schools. “Zero-tolerance” policies that presume all explanations for infractions as small as being late to school are excuses and there’s no such thing as mitigating circumstances have been particularly hurtful to poor black and Latino students.
Supporters of zero tolerance say the policies are designed to teach accountability and maintain order in some of the country’s most dangerous schools; critics say they push at-risk kids who need the most help and attention out of school and send a message that they’re not wanted. Simultaneously, schools have over the years more heavily relied on law enforcement and courts to deal with problem students, creating the so called “school-to-prison pipeline” that for many perpetuates into adulthood.