Zero tolerance approach fails to help students

The old “spare the rod, spoil the child” approach simply won’t cut it anymore.

There’s no question that schools are obligated to preserve the safety and integrity of the learning environment, and teaching all children with access to a rigorous curriculum that will prepare them for the demands of college and the workforce.

However, it’s the means being used to reach those worthwhile goals locally that must be questioned. The old “spare the rod, spoil the child” approach simply won’t cut it anymore.

According to the Association of American Psychologists, zero toleration has failed to improve school discipline. Suspending/ expelling kids is an “archaic” policy (Trustee Barry Neufeld). It creates unintended consequences for students, their families and society as a whole.

Finally, as to when an individual should be considered mature and responsible? Evidence from the field of neuroscience is clear: “executive functions” such as planning, working memory, and impulse control, are among the last areas of brain to mature – they may not be fully developed until halfway through the third decade of life.

So why not try the widely implemented and successful approach called “restorative justice”? Young people deserve our understanding and care. Let’s make real efforts to know what they require and what works to support them.


Dr. Lal Sharma

Former professor, school trustee

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