More on Zero Tolerance Policies

Many of the comments to my post about zero tolerance policies made various assertions about what these policies supposedly routinely cover. The trouble is that I suspect that none of us has a very good sense of more than a few such policies. We might have seen one or two in operation in schools with which we were associated (as parents, students, teachers, or others), or we might have heard some horror stories in the media, most of which likely didn’t quote the text of the policy, and which might well have dealt with policies that were unrepresentative. What’s more, the comments generally didn’t point to even one such policy, so what we had was faint recollections of what some policy supposedly said.

So I’d like to ask people who have access to some such policies to actually post the text, or relevant excerpts from the text. That still won’t give us a representative sample, but it might give us a few examples that can foster a concrete discussion. And please don’t just cherry-pick the worst, or the best; if you have access to more than one, please post the ones that seem representative of the ones you’ve seen, or perhaps ones that represent several different approaches.

Let me offer the one I quickly found in my search, which is the Calif. Educ. Code § 48915. I call it a “zero tolerance” policy because this is how the California government labels it; and while some parts are discretionary (which may be uncharacteristic of things generally labeled as zero tolerance policies, though I’m not sure) others are indeed mandatory. Here’s the text (subsections c and b swapped):

(a) Except as provided in subdivisions (c) and (e), the principal or the superintendent of schools shall recommend the expulsion of a pupil for any of the following acts committed at school or at a school activity off school grounds, unless the principal or superintendent finds that expulsion is inappropriate, due to the particular circumstance:

(1) Causing serious physical injury to another person, except in self-defense.

(2) Possession of any knife or other dangerous object of no reasonable use to the pupil.

(3) Unlawful possession of any controlled substance listed in Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 11053) of Division 10 of the Health and Safety Code, except for the first offense for the possession of not more than one avoirdupois ounce of marijuana, other than concentrated cannabis.

(4) Robbery or extortion.

(5) Assault or battery, as defined in Sections 240 and 242 of the Penal Code, upon any school employee.

(c) The principal or superintendent of schools shall immediately suspend, pursuant to Section 48911, and shall recommend expulsion of a pupil that he or she determines has committed any of the following acts at school or at a school activity off school grounds:

(1) Possessing, selling, or otherwise furnishing a firearm. This subdivision does not apply to an act of possessing a firearm if the pupil had obtained prior written permission to possess the firearm from a certificated school employee, which is concurred in by the principal or the designee of the principal. This subdivision applies to an act of possessing a firearm only if the possession is verified by an employee of a school district.

(2) Brandishing a knife at another person.

(3) Unlawfully selling a controlled substance listed in Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 11053) of Division 10 of the Health and Safety Code.

(4) Committing or attempting to commit a sexual assault as defined in subdivision (n) of Section 48900 or committing a sexual battery as defined in subdivision (n) of Section 48900.

(5) Possession of an explosive.

(b) Upon recommendation by the principal, superintendent of schools, or by a hearing officer or administrative panel appointed pursuant to subdivision (d) of Section 48918, the governing board may order a pupil expelled upon finding that the pupil committed an act listed in subdivision (a) or in subdivision (a), (b), (c), (d), or (e) of Section 48900 [which includes, among other things, “[c]aus[ing], attempt[ing] to cause, or threaten[ing] to cause physical injury to another person” or “[w]illfully us[ing] force or violence upon the person of another, except in self-defense” -EV]. A decision to expel shall be based on a finding of one or both of the following:

(1) Other means of correction are not feasible or have repeatedly failed to bring about proper conduct.

(2) Due to the nature of the act, the presence of the pupil causes a continuing danger to the physical safety of the pupil or others.

(d) The governing board shall order a pupil expelled upon finding that the pupil committed an act listed in subdivision (c) ….

(e) Upon recommendation by the principal, superintendent of schools, or by a hearing officer or administrative panel appointed pursuant to subdivision (d) of Section 48918, the governing board may order a pupil expelled upon finding that the pupil, at school or at a school activity off of school grounds violated subdivision (f), (g), (h), (i), (j), (k), (l), or (m) of Section 48900, or Section 48900.2, 48900.3, or 48900.4, and either of the following:

(1) That other means of correction are not feasible or have repeatedly failed to bring about proper conduct.

(2) That due to the nature of the violation, the presence of the pupil causes a continuing danger to the physical safety of the pupil or others….

(g) As used in this section, “knife” means any dirk, dagger, or other weapon with a fixed, sharpened blade fitted primarily for stabbing, a weapon with a blade fitted primarily for stabbing, a weapon with a blade longer than 3 1/2 inches, a folding knife with a blade that locks into place, or a razor with an unguarded blade.

(h) As used in this section, the term “explosive” means “destructive device” as described in Section 921 of Title 18 of the United States Code.