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The 17 th Joint National Conference on the Alternatives to Expulsion, Suspension, & Dropping Out of School Orlando, Florida Feb 2011 REDEFINING ZERO TOLERANCE.

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Presentation on theme: "The 17 th Joint National Conference on the Alternatives to Expulsion, Suspension, & Dropping Out of School Orlando, Florida Feb 2011 REDEFINING ZERO TOLERANCE."— Presentation transcript:

1 The 17 th Joint National Conference on the Alternatives to Expulsion, Suspension, & Dropping Out of School Orlando, Florida Feb 2011 REDEFINING ZERO TOLERANCE POLICIES Brian J. Schoonover, Ph.D. University of Florida To receive an electronic version of this presentation, please visit my website: © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

2 The purpose of this session is to present methods on redefining zero tolerance policies with the intent of infusing more positive strategies on disciplining students without having to resort to suspensions and expulsions. Presentation objectives include: 1. a presentation of research on zero tolerance policies 2. providing participants with methods on keeping students in a learning environment while modifying undesirable behaviors 3. exploring the Changing Habits After New Character Education (CHANCE) system of schools. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

3 Definition of Zero Tolerance: Zero tolerance, as it relates to behavior and discipline, has been defined as the policy or practice of not tolerating undesirable behavior, such as violence or illegal drug use, with the automatic imposition of severe penalties, even for first offenses (Potts, Njie, Detch, & Walton, 2003, p. 16). Seventeen years ago, the federal Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 required that any student who brings a gun to school be expelled for no less than 365 days. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

4 Zero Tolerance Policies are the appearance of justice National Director of Juvenile Prevention Programs, Federal Department of Justice, Robert Flores, J.D., With students on the streets [as a result of being suspended from school for violating a zero tolerance policy], is society now in greater danger? -Are the zero tolerance policies in our schools resulting in safer schools at the expense of causing other harms in our communities? -Have you taken misbehaviors and turned them into misdemeanors? © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

5 The Schoolhouse-to-Jailhouse trend: Of the 26,990 school related referrals to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice during the 2004–2005 school year, over three– quarters of school–based referrals (76%) were for misdemeanor offenses such as disorderly conduct, trespassing, or assault and/or battery, which is usually nothing more than a schoolyard fight (Advancement Project, 2006, p. 6). Children are increasingly being sent to judges and jails for offenses that traditionally were handled in an administrators office or after- school detentions. This is the Schoolhouse-to- Jailhouse trend that is sweeping the nation. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

6 One example: In 2005 a 5 year-old girl was handcuffed and arrested by St. Petersburg, FL police for kicking the assistant principal and having a temper tantrum in her classroom. The girls family hired a lawyer and sued both the Pinellas County School District as well as the St. Petersburg Police Department (AP/CBS, 2005). In an interview with the Associated Press, the lawyer for the family said, Unfortunately, with our system of civil justice, the way that we handle these matters, is you have to sue someone in order to get reform... to get the reform, you have to make them pay, because if you dont make them pay, theyre never going to reform themselves (13). © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

7 Three years of research on Zero Tolerance Policies revealed the following: The American Bar Association, the American Psychological Association, and the NAACP have all issued official statements calling for the abandonment of zero tolerance policies as they relate to children. Florida has been nationally highlighted by the NAACP and the Advancement Project as having a discipline crisis. There currently are no guidelines or model elements for Student Codes of Conduct that school boards or district superintendents can refer to when trying to improve their policies ( © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

8 The smaller the school district, the fewer the options for students: In researching the 67 school districts in Florida, 32 of the 33 large districts provided an option of an alternative education setting while only16 of the 34 small districts offered an option of an alternative education setting. In speaking with many of the district employees of the smaller districts, the desire to have an alternative education setting is there, but the money isnt. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

9 Limit What Constitutes a Zero Tolerance Offense Few people question the philosophy that truly violent students must be separated from the rest of the student body in order to protect the well–being and safety of the entire student population, but offenses that result in the removal of a student from their regular education setting should be limited in nature. In the 2009 Legislative Session, FL Senate Bill 1540, Zero-Tolerance Policies, addressed discipline in public schools. The bill states that zero-tolerance policies are not intended to be rigorously applied to petty acts of misconduct and misdemeanors. School districts are encouraged to use alternatives to expulsion or referral to law enforcement agencies unless using such alternatives will pose a threat to school safety. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

10 Methods on redefining zero tolerance policies with the intent of infusing more positive strategies on disciplining students without having to resort to suspensions and expulsions 7 Elements to a Model Student Code of Conduct: Element 1: A definition of the term zero tolerance that reflects the philosophy that a zero tolerance offense is one where a student is guilty of a very serious breach of conduct, a breach where it is clear that the student had the intent of threatening the safety of others at school. Element 2: A system of safeguards that provides, prior to administering any consequences, individual consideration for all students by considering their maturity level, past infractions and examining the intent of their actions. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

11 Continued… Element 3: A matrix of all possible discipline infractions (possession of guns, knives, or drugs, as well as bullying, stealing, fighting, sexual harassment, etc). Element 4: A restriction that includes the possession of weapons (both guns and knives) as the only zero tolerance offenses since they could threaten the safety of those at school. Element 5: An explanation that the alternative schools are a part of the district schools and are an option for any student who violates the Student Code of Conduct. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

12 Continued… Element 6: An Amnesty Clause that specifically states that, should a student discover he or she has unknowingly brought a weapon on campus or a school bus, and if they immediately and personally notify school personnel upon such a discovery, that the zero tolerance punishment will not apply. Element 7: The Student Code of Conduct should use an easily readable format and should be distributed to each student in hardcopy form as well as accessible online. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

13 Infuse positive strategies into the Student Code of Conduct: The goal: keep more students in a learning environment while modifying undesirable behaviors Following my three year research study at the University of Florida, I spent the next three years as a school administrator where I was able to include several strategic programs into the processes of modifying student behavior. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.


15 Methods that directly contributed to the reduction in discipline referrals, beginning in the first year: School wide Guidance Lessons on Bus Safety, Cafeteria Manners, School Behavior & Expectations for Nonviolence. Classroom Wide Guidance Lessons: on Tobacco, Bullying, Respect, Bus Behavior, Conflict Resolution, Character Counts, and general adolescence Expectations/Pressure. Working with teachers to develop individual behavior plans (similar to IEPs for SWD). © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

16 The entire Administrative Team: Higher Visibility by Administration The use of Classroom WalkThroughs on our Palm Pilots, visiting every classroom twice a week for 5-minutes. Visits by an administrator to the classroom the morning after a disruption (proactive conversations) Saturday morning detentions Data Sharing with Bus Drivers © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

17 The results of implementation: © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.



20 In addition, focus on attendance instead of just discipline: Every absent student receives a personal phone call from the receptionist. Implement letters being sent home with the 5 th, 7 th, 10 th and 15 th absence (the absence # 7 letter includes a request for a parent conference to discuss attendance with an Administrator). Home visits are conducted by Administrative teams at absence #10 An absence report is reviewed weekly. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

21 Dramatic reductions in absences were in direct correlation to the reduction in discipline referrals: © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

22 Where can this been done? 1. Regular Educational Setting 2. Alternative Educational Setting Create a Three-CHANCE System of Educational Settings to end the Schoolhouse-to-Jailhouse trend. Eliminate the concept of expulsion from every Student Code of Conduct and instead replace it with safeguards and options that allow students to move within a Three–CHANCE system of educational settings until they obtain their high school diploma. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

23 Three-CHANCE schools CHANCE represents the acronym Changing Habits After New Character Education. The First–CHANCE all students get is at their regularly zoned educational setting. This is the presumptive placement for all students. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

24 Second-CHANCE If the students are continually suspended because they cannot successfully abide by the Student Codes of Conduct in the First– CHANCE schools, students are then given a second opportunity to prove themselves at the Second– CHANCE alternative school. Second–CHANCE schools would also be used for chronically disruptive students as well as chronically truant students. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

25 Ideally each district would have their own Second–CHANCE school, but smaller districts may combine their funds to create one shared facility. Second– CHANCE alternative schools could be facilitated in one of two ways: 1) One way would be to resemble the successful residential alternative education settings for at–risk or chronically disruptive students currently facilitated by the National Guard Youth Challenge Academies program. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

26 According to the April 24, 2006 edition of U.S. News & World Report (Kingsbury, 2006, p. 31): The teaching at the academies is strictly organized. Cadets take one section of the high school equivalency test at a time, focusing on reading, writing, and math. The testing method, which pairs an adult education model with the militarys instructional system, works. Nationwide, 70% of the students in the Challenge program earned their general equivalency diplomas © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

27 Thats nearly double the 41% pass rate of other adult education programs. And cadets earn theirs in half the time–improving an average of two grade levels in reading and math in only 5 ½ months in class, for example. The cost of educating a cadet is 85% less than that of educating a high school student–and far less than the cost of juvenile incarceration. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

28 The other type of Second-CHANCE schools: The second way would be a day program that would closely resemble the First-CHANCE school with more restrictions, less students, and less electives. The Second–CHANCE schools would also serve as the setting for students who have violated zero tolerance policies (excluding those who were convicted of felonies). © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

29 If students still cannot find success in their Second–CHANCE schools, or have been convicted of a felony, then their final educational opportunity would be a Third–CHANCE educational setting located at the residential juvenile correction facility. By providing three levels of educational settings, all students in would be required to attend school in one of the three CHANCE schools, even if they had violated a zero tolerance policy in their regular educational setting and were not allowed back for one calendar year under Federal Law. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

30 The CHANCE program would essentially eliminate children from ever being expelled from public education; instead, children would simply move between the Three-CHANCE schools until they have completed the requirements for graduation or a high school equivalent certification program. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

31 Summary This presentation highlighted the ways in which Zero Tolerance policies have been implemented since the passage of GFSA. It provided elements for a model policy that all districts can adopt and ways to infuse Positive Behavior Supports (PBS). It recommended the establishment of a three-CHANCE school system in every school district. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

32 Questions? Comments? Suggestions? For more information, or for a copy of Dr. Schoonovers complete manuscript, please visit contact him at or call Thank you for coming today and God Bless you and your cause. © Brian Schoonover, Ph.D.

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