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Most Americans today have a largely negative image of zero-tolerance policies (ZTP) enacted to stop and prevent violence in the United States school system. According to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Research and Improvement, zero-tolerance procedures are policies that mandate predetermined consequences or punishments for specific offenses (Walker). These policies specifically targeted actions considered violent and threatening, such as possession of a firearm or weapon. The concept of zero-tolerance policies was introduced into the education system during the 1980s as part of the failed War on Drugs as an attack on drug usage and violence in schools. Due to the alterations made to zero-tolerance policies in the recent pact, most associate the harsh, one-size-fits-all procedures that have been used in public schools with the shooting at Columbine High School. This paper examines how Columbine was the specific event that changed the use of zero-tolerance policies in schools to severely restrict student rights in the United States school system.


Ms. Stahl also presented her work at the John Wesley Powell Undergraduate Research Conference in 2016. You can view her abstract online.