Zero Tolerance?

Today during my team meeting we watched the above TED talk about reengaging boys in schools. I highly recommend you watch this and engage in some conversation with your peers about it as I did this morning. The speaker goes over some of the reasons why she believes schools are not set up for boys to be successful. While I am not saying I agree with every single point she made one struck me funny and has caused me to question my beliefs.

She claims that one of the problems with schools is their zero tolerance policy. This would apply to any sort of actions, words, or writing that could be considered violent. In addition, this applies to “toy” or pretend weapons as well as drawings that have weapons or violent acts. Now, first let me say that I do not condone violence nor do I think we should allow it to be present in our schools. In the post Columbine-era, there are too many real and sad examples of violence in schools with tragic consequences.

The intent of a zero tolerance policy to prevent such tragedies from happening and I agree with this in theory. However, I know plenty of people, myself included, that played first person shooter video games, shot guns as kids (skeet shoot, BB guns), and wrote fantasy stories with death or what would be considered violent imagery. All of these things would land a kid in the principal’s office with the psychologist and possibly a threat assessment. Yet, all of these people I know are successful adults with no record of violent acts. Surely there are those that write, speak, and communicate violence and do go forward with it. Is it because of the few that the zero tolerance policies are put into place?

With that being said I offer a perspective… In a majority of the tragic school tragedies involving violence and/or shootings, the shooters were later discovered to have been bullied at some point at school. For every school shooter there are millions of little boys playing with pretend guns that will never use a real one against another human being. However, if we continue to focus on what a kid is drawing in a notebook and not at the real root of the problem are we missing the point? If we focus our energy on figuring out the root of bullying, identify it, teach about it, and stop it, doesn’t that seem a better use of our time?
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