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Education Week featured an article recently which stated that a new report finds zero tolerance policies are applied excessively in Pennsylvania.

The report issued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, states that the policies that were originally designed to keep guns out of schools have had the additional effect of keeping students out of the classroom.

Black students, Latino students, and students with disabilities are more likely to be suspended than their peers, says the Nov. 14 report, which is based on a statewide, district-by-district analysis of Pennsylvania data on suspensions, expulsions, and school referrals to police.

The Intent of Zero Tolerance Policies

The state specific snapshot mirrors other recent criticisms of the zero tolerance policies, required by the federal Gun Free Schools Act of 1995. That law required states that receive federal funding  to enact policies that mandated expulsion of students found to be possessing a weapon on campus.

But in practice, the law’s reach extended beyond its original intentions as districts expanded the definition of “weapons” beyond firearms and removed students from the classroom for more minor, discretionary offenses, such as school uniform violations and talking back to adults, the report said. Education Week took a broader look at the shifting national discussion on student discipline in this January 2013 report.

“I understand the mentality that you’ve got to get the bad kids out of school so the good kids can learn, but when you actually look at who’s doing what in schools, it really doesn’t break down that cleanly or that simply,” report author Harold Jordan said in an interview.

Pennsylvania school leaders issued an average of 10.1 suspensions for every 100 students during the 2011-2012 school year, the report says. The York City School District, which had the highest suspension rate in the state that year, issued 91 suspensions for every 100 students, the report says. Some students may have been suspended multiple times.

In that same year, districts issued an average of 35.9 suspensions for every 100 black students, 17.5 suspensions for every 100 Latino students, and 4.7 suspensions for every 100 white students, the report says.

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Report Finds Zero Tolerance Policies are Applied Excessively in Pennsylvania

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