Is 'Zero Tolerance' Failing Iowa Schools?

The Des Moines Register

In the state of Iowa the excessive use of suspensions since 2009 has come under much scrutiny. In the last school year, school officials in Iowa suspended students 56,032 times. Though this figure is a reduction from higher numbers in recent times, education advocates see signs of a broken-system.

An overwhelming majority of suspensions were classified as either being caused by disruptive behavior or attendance; 4% of suspensions were the result of ‘fighting without injury’  “By spending time away from the classroom, students are missing out on education and they’re falling behind,” said Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a research analyst for the Sentencing Project, a civil rights advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

Parents and education reform advocates are now asking questions such as: Does it make sense to remove a student from class for missing class? Are disruptive behaviors too broadly classified? Should a child be automatically removed from school — and possibly face criminal charges — for noninjury altercations?

The link between suspensions and children being committed to juvenile residential facilities cannot be ignored as well. Studies by groups such as the Sentencing Project suggest a link between school suspensions and brushes with the law later in life. The group found that 54,148 children were committed to juvenile residential facilities across the country in 2013, based on the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Like many school districts across the country Iowa will be looking toward reforming their zero tolerance policy. To read more about the changing perspective of ‘zero tolerance’ school discipline and its effects on Iowa Public Schools click here: Is ‘zero tolerance’ failing Iowa schools?