A policy brief published by Child Trends in March suggests that zero-tolerance policies adopted by schools in the 1990s and 2000s are not only ineffective and increase dropouts, but disproportionately affect minority, disabled and poor students.
"Multiple Responses, Promising Results: Evidence-Based, Non-punitive Alternatives To Zero Tolerance," authored by Christopher Boccanfuso and Megan Kuhfeld, reviews existing research on the effects of zero-tolerance policies.
It finds suspensions and expulsions strongly linked to subsequent suspensions and expulsions, as well as lower academic achievement and lower standardized test scores.
The brief also examines non-punitive alternatives shown to improve school safety and student outcomes by taking a preventive approach. These programs include behavior interventions, social-skills classes and character education.