Study: Zero Tolerance Discipline Leading To Higher Dropout Rate

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – More than half of junior high and high school students in Texas will be suspended or expelled before they graduate.  A new study ties that high discipline rate to lower graduation rates, and higher crime rates.

13-year-old Joe Wallace is just going into the 8th grade in the fall in Dallas, but his mother Lakaisha Wallace says he’s already well schooled in being suspended.  “You were disruptive in class today. let’s expel you for two days. That’s zero tolerance you know, but that’s what we’re facing.”

As an African-American with learning difficulties, Joe is in one of the highest risk groups of kids being removed from classrooms across the state.

The Council of State Governments studied school records of nearly one million Texas students and found nearly 6 in 10 were suspended or expelled between 7th and 12th grade.

Of those suspended, 10 percent dropped out.  One in seven had contact with the juvenile justice system.

“Where we are, as far as classroom sizes, oh you’re going to have to do something. Or you will not be able to effectively teach,” says Dallas Cater High School teacher Curtis Ferguson.

Ferguson says teachers don’t want administrators to toss kids out.  It reflects badly on them and doesn’t always help the student.  Educators, he said, may just have to accept working harder with kids.  “You have to be prepared to pull a rabbit out of a hat. which means extensive training, longer hours.”

Wallace has tried to organize with parents through the Texas Organizing Project, but still feels schools are taking the easy way out with difficult kids.  “It’s easier to deal with that than to find out what’s actually affecting the child.”

The study found only three percent of suspensions were actually required by Texas law and individual schools are making vastly different decisions on when students should be suspended.

Dallas ISD is compiling data from its own survey of tens of thousands of students.  A DISD spokesman says the district survey is designed to find ways staff can help students more.

The district says it has increased its graduation rate and decreased the dropout rate over the last three school years.


One Comment

  1. Ronald Jenkins says:

    Study: Zero Tolerance Discipline Leading To Higher Dropout Rate
    I am disappointed in this kind of reporting. To make a claim that zero tolerance is some how the cause of higher drop outs and criminal behavior is absurd. Any thinking person can see that the zero tolerance policies are due to the increase in students who act out and those students that act out are a reflection of parenting skills or a lack of parenting skills. The idea that this news station did a story placing the responsibility for these students who act out on the shoulder of good teachers doing the best they can with what they have is demonstrative. The policy is necessary so that those children who have a chance to learn get the best chance possible and that means getting the disruptive kids out of the classroom and sending a massage to the parents who apparently do a poor job. The parents need to step up so the teachers can keep doing the best job they can with what they have. These disruptive kids are likely to have greater drop out rates and more criminal activity when less discipline is in place and the current behavior is an indication that they are likely to fail in life. You should rerun the story and put the spot light on the parents who apparently want no responsibility for the disruption their kids cause. You should point out how the data is skewed. More over, you should report responsibly. Getting rid of the policy will only bring down the rest of the class and only teach the disruptive student that the disruptions are acceptable. Do your job and do a balanced report. For the record, I am no teacher and I have no relationship to any teachers but this kind of reporting stinks of thoughtlessness or real consideration and other aspects that demonstrate a lack of intelligence. Please update your story and give it some real perspective. The effort to do a story tying a policy of explosion from class disruptions to future behavior has an erroneous conclusion with a foundation in supposition. The fact that the parents are the responsible party for the preparation of their children and the future decisions or actions their child makes is intuitively oblivious to the most casual observer. Do a fair and balanced report to rectify the damage done by the limited report done tonight. Anyone can do the minimum and give no thought to what they say but you have a responsibility to consider what you are reporting, the impact, the accuracy, and other perspectives for balance unless you are intentionally reporting to help some organization achieve an outcome which would be immoral. Have integrity please.

    1. Joy says:

      I am happy someone else is speaking out. Mr. Jenkins it’s time for responsible parents and adults to stop sitting on the sidelines. We all need to start speaking out, because the parents who refuse to parent have no problem expressing them selves every chance they get.

  2. Joy says:

    I was deeply disappointed and disturbed as a classroom teacher and parent by the story channel eleven aired about students being suspended from school. I noticed that the parent was concerned with what more could the school do to prevent her soon from being expelled from school. I challenge her and ask her what is she doing to discourage him from disturbing the classroom instruction on a daily bases. This type of attitude disturbs me because not only do parents want us to provide for them financially now they also want us to raise their children. I would be willing to say that this student has been a behavior problem since he entered the public school system and now his mother is tired of having to deal with him at home between 8 am and 4 pm because that’s when she gets her break from the monster she created. I see this everyday. If this student is academically challenged and cant manage to sit in the general education classroom without infringing on the rights of his classmates who came to school to learn. Maybe he ought to be placed in an alternative setting other than the general education classroom. Parents you should take the time to talk to your children especially the ones who want to get a good education and see how they truly feel about these disruptive students in their classrooms. I will tell you they hate it. The other students complain and they are some what relieved when these students are absent or sent out of the classroom, so I think it’s time for the parents with well behaved children who are academically driven to start standing up and make some noise. If the real parents stand up and start demanding these disruptive students be alternative placed maybe their children can receive the education they pay for. If no one has noticed all of the challenged parents make more noise than any group, so it’s time parents to take back our classrooms and allow our children to learn in a productive environment without the disruptions and the parents who refuse to parent. This message is for the parents with these disruptive students. Yes, your child has rights, but so do the other 21 tax paying students sitting in the classroom with him.

  3. When were ‘learning disabilities’ invented?

    Dyslexia is one. Everything else is concocted. ADHD is not a disability, it’s a short attention span…

    1. TK says:

      Tell Me, Do you know any children with learning disabilities? Do you have ADHD? Do you know any children with mental, emotional, or behavioral disabilities….these are all very real DISABILITIES!! From a parent who has a child who fits this category I am disturbed by your lack of education on the subject…shows how ignorant you really are.

  4. CanadianTexan says:

    I’m going against the general opinions here and say zero tolerance is the problem. What used to be “kids being kids” now lands the kid in juvi court. Zero tolerence for a kid running in the hall, or throwing trash accross the room to try to make a “basket” into the trash can gets kids sent to court these days. That is just kids being kids. And suspensions and court dates will never change the fact that kids like to run. But it will turn that kid into a rebel and a quitter sooner or later.

    1. RussP says:

      I didn’t see anything in this article about kids being expelled for running in the hall or playing basketball in the trash cans. I think the trouble these kids are getting into is bigger than that. It’s also a sign of teachers and administrators having to deal with handful of trouble makers in each class instead of a handful in the whole school like it was many years ago. All this could be fixed if parents would get involved and be held responsible for the actions of their kids.

      1. CanadianTexan says:

        I was using a personal example from personal direct experience with zero tolerance. That 60% is not entirely made up of future deadbeats and gang members. I would guess that if they took stupid suspensions and expulsions out of the formula, the ratio would be 3:10 or 2:10 instead of 6:10.

  5. tk says:

    Thank you for doing this segment…..The issue lies with each independent school system…..The no child left behind act is supposed to protect these children…….read the I.D.E.A……..Many of whom have mental emotional and behavioral disorders….these are disabilities which must be addressed after teasting at an ARD…..Once testing is done if any disability is uncovered that child qualifies for Special Education Services…..and the zero tollerance issue must be altered to accomodate these disabilities….Not to say these children should not be held accountable for their actions….but if they are not taught how to avoid some of the issues they are getting in trouble for they cannot change their behavior…given suggestions on how to alter their behavior when they are angry or fustrated….You can blame the parents all you want…..but that does not help the child learn different ways of dealing with life…..Did you get to choose your DNA?? Neither did they….generation after generation of bad parenting produces more bad parenting…’s time to help these children break the cycle! Have some compassion people….instead of blame become part of the solution.

  6. AMH says:

    i was in school when the zero tolerance policy went into effect, and I can say that a great many of its effects are ridiculous. I was at R. L. Paschal.
    1) a student had, in her car, some translucent neon water guns, still in the packaging. She was a brilliant, A.P. and honors student, and when they chose to search her car for whatever reason, she consented and very nearly didn’t get to walk that year at graduation.
    2) Another brilliant, musical violinist, student lived on a ranch. He drove a truck in to school… it even had the ‘farm truck’ license plate. Someone left a beer can beside his truck, so they decided to search his truck. He complied, and he had a leatherman tool under the front seat. They have a blade in them, so we was summarily sent to alternative school.

    This doesn’t even cover the fact that the state of Texas sees knives under a certain length as tools, not weapons… but suddenly a blade of any length is outlawed under the zero-tolerance policy? So If I, as a student, use a knife at my job after school, I cannot bring it with me to school or even leave it in my car? No, I have to leave it at home or work, which is silly since most students (people) who carry a knife are not going to use it for violence. Certainly mostly they won’t be the instigators of violence.

    Really, the plastic forks in the cafeterias were more dangerous as weapons.. during a fight one student might stick some into another student and break them off inside the skin.

  7. darrell says:

    the problem isnt zero tolerance at school. the problem is total tolerance at home and by society as a whole.

  8. L Jackson says:

    I have been singing this for years, zero tolerance in the schools have caused a big problem and only making good kids bad kids. And yes some of you are right, the problem could be worked out at home and at school with the teachers and parents working hand and hand. But you can’t blame the parents or teacher to much because some of the problem came with you sitting on the side line and letting them take religions and spanking out of schools. And then you ttook spanking away from the parent by charging them with abused when they try to disclipline their children. This time out is a bunch of bull that you want the parents and teachers to do.. It doesn’t work with your kids or no one else kids. If it did you wouldn’t have so many kids killing the parent these days. And I’m sorry to say it is mostly white kids..Even when they go in and shoot up the schools, guess who it is. But when it come to the school passing out these unfair and uneven disciplines it is the minority kids that this hurts mostly. They end up in the courts for the smallest of stuff that you wouldn’t believe.. This sending our kids though the courts has just end up beening a big money maker for the courts and cities. It’s making money for the fat cats upon the back of the poor and our kids. No this is a Damn good article and it is something that needs to be looked into.All of you that’s just shooting your mouth off about it being a waste of time, don’t know what the Hell you’re talking about. They are messing up some good kids life by puting them in the same boat with the 5% of the bad ones that needs to be surpended. And I’m on a lunch break and typing fast, so excuse any mis-spelled or bad English. but this has been a problem out here in SouthEast Fort Worth Schools for the last few years. And while I am on the subject let me just say this to the race of people that keep saying that they get tired of us using the race card, well there is no way you can know what it is like to be discriminated against because you are not black and you are the ones that are the givers of it and we are the ones receiving it..So you don’t know when our kids are getting the short end of the stick., but we do.

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