Zero Tolerance Policy Creates a School-to-Prison Pipeline
New America Media (Interview) Jacob Simas | May 05, 2011

Schools across the nation are increasingly adopting punitive measures as a way to control and deter violence and other disruptive behaviors. These “zero tolerance” policies can encompass anything from metal detectors to increased police presence on school campuses to the handing out of expulsions and suspensions. But a rising tide of voices say that zero tolerance policies are ineffective, and in fact only succeed in making matters worse by creating a “school and prison pipeline.”

Annette Fuentes is the author of a new book, Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes the Jail House, published by Verso. The book explores the reasons zero tolerance policies have grown, and investigates the impact those policies are having on students. She was interviewed by NAM associate editor Jacob Simas.

JS: We’ve witnessed a trend over the last 20 years or so, of schools embracing security and punishment as a means to control student behavior. Would it be safe to assume, then, that our schools are not as safe as they used to be?

AF: It would be very inaccurate (to say that). Schools today are among the safest places for children to be, and that includes their homes and their neighborhoods. We know, the experts know, that the level of violence in our public schools is among the lowest level it’s been in in about 20 years. School violence peaked in the early ‘90s. Data from the National Center on School Violence… show clearly that incidents of violence in schools have been going down. And this parallels crime in general, in the wider society. So schools are in almost all cases the safest places for kids to be. That doesn’t mean that there are not incidents of school violence, but they have been so blown out of proportion that most people walk around thinking that another Columbine is just around the corner. (Read more)