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By Dr. Marciene Mattleman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A zero-tolerance policy imposes automatic punishment for infractions of a stated rule with the intent of eliminating undesirable behavior. Because rates of discipline have been disproportionally high for some racial groups and overly broad, guidance from the US Department of Education and Justice is suggesting changes.

Evie Blad in Education Week, reports that too often students are removed from the classroom for nonviolent incidents such as dress-code violation and high rates of suspensions and expulsions may have a “disparate impact” on certain student groups.

Although black students represented 15% in the national data collected for the Department of Education’s office for civil rights, 44% were suspended more than once and 36% of those were expelled. Secretary Arne Duncan said, “It is adult behavior that needs to change.”

This is not new federal legislation but guidance in assisting districts to meet federal civil rights laws with school climate changes and recommendations of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative.

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