Is ‘Zero Tolerance’ not enough?
February 23, 2011
Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.
Email This Story
Recently, a W.T. Woodson student was found dead in his home after taking his own life. To those who knew former Langley student Josh Anderson who died similarly in May 2009, this story is all too familiar.
The two deaths came up recently in a high-level school board discussion about Fairfax County Public Schools’ ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy, since both students were being disciplined by FCPS around the time of their deaths.
‘Zero Tolerance’ is a commonly used phrase to describe Fairfax County’s disciplinary actions towards students who are in violation of the “federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation and/or policy or regulation of the School Board, the school system, or the school” according to FCPS Students’ Responsibilities and Rights (SR&R) handbook.
Some school board officials now claim the disciplinary system is too harsh. Specifically, the ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy “lacks the ability to recognize the emotional difficulties students experience and intervene with the appropriate support,” said the school board in a statement released early this month.
One vocal critic of Zero Tolerance is Anderson’s mother, Sue Anderson who states that there is a connection between the policy and her son’s death. “I believe they are linked. How can I not think that, when our son took his life the day before our second time to the Hearing Office?” she wrote on her blog at www.rememberingjosh.blogspot.com.
FCPS Superintendent Dr. Jack Dale defended Zero Tolerance in a statement to “The Washington Post.” Dale said the current policy offers students “ample opportunity to correct their behaviors before serious consequences are applied.” Dale’s statement also said blaming the policy for the deaths is “furthering a falsehood that is unconscionable and a blow to those who have already suffered great pain and loss.”
Still FCPS Supervisors Catherine Hudgins (Hunter Mill District) and Penny Gross (Mason District) in a hearing discussed alternatives to Zero Tolerance, such as involving students in the discipline process in parent and youth support groups.
Dale commented on the hearing in an email to the Saxon Scope saying “the intent of Supervisor Hudgins is to have the school system and county agencies continue to work together to provide support to students and families who need help to be successful. We currently have many collaborative initiatives and will continue to develop more.”