Emotional Disabilities Essay

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Emotional Disabilities

Compounding Struggles: The Unethical Affects of Zero-Tolerance Discipline Policies on Students With Emotional Disabilities

Zero tolerance discipline policies are unfair to children with emotional disabilities

Zero-tolerance policies have traditionally been used regarding extreme campus crimes such as the use of tobacco or firearms.

Extending the use of zero tolerance policies has created much debate.

Some of the factors cited during this debate include keeping schools safe, encouraging responsible teen behavior, the "fairness" and justice of discipline policies, and implications with students for disabilities.

Zero-tolerance policies are often seen to adversely affect students with disabilities.

Supporting Reason 1: Zero-tolerance policies are applied unfairly to students with emotional disabilities.

A. Applied to students who are seen as trouble makers

B. Possibly racist or ethnically motivated

C. Punish students who cannot control their own behavior

III. Supporting Reason 2: Zero-tolerance policies do not allow teachers to use their butter judgment.

A. Cannot look at mitigating factors

B. Are unable to look at the seriousness of the offense

IV. Supporting Reason 3: Zero-tolerance policies send teens away from the resources that would help them.

A. Suspension of expulsion may leave them at home.

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B.A student slips through the system's grasp.

V. Conclusion

A. Modern zero-tolerance policies are unfair to students with emotional disabilities and should be refigured.

VI. References.

Title of Paper: Compounding Struggles: The Unethical Affects of Zero-Tolerance Discipline Policies on Students With Emotional Disabilities

Essay on Emotional Disabilities Assignment

It is fitting that in the first page of his report regarding zero-tolerance policies, Russell (2000) brings up Columbine. Although all of the students who managed to escape the frightful idea have long since graduated, the topic is still poignant enough to bring tears to many eyes. Because of columbine and other incidents of school violence, zero-tolerance policies were developed in an attempt to discourage students from harming others, and were traditionally aimed at such severe crimes as drug and alcohol use and physical violence. Thus, zero-tolerance policies were and have always been motivated by fear, and perhaps with good reason. In discussing the Canadian school environment Jull (2000) points out that 80% of study respondents "felt that violence was more prevalent in schools than it was ten years ago" (para. 1). Indeed, Jull (1999) continues by writing that "teachers themselves have reported dramatic increases in the type, frequency, and severity of anti-social, aggressive, and violent behaviour in classrooms" (para. 1). Incidents like the Jena six case and the Virginia Tech shootings have Americans on edge. No tolerance policies were traditionally developed in order to help prevent such violence by threatening students with sticking consequences -- or zero-tolerance policies. According to Russell (2000) around 80% of schools in the United States have at least one zero-tolerance component to their discipline contracts, with portions continuing to increase as violence does.

However, today's zero-tolerance obsession may not be what it used to be. Russell (2000) writes:

"The essence of Zero Tolerance is that the punishment of student misdemeanors should be rapid and inexorable. The idea of Zero Tolerance has its origins in the U.S. government's domestic wars on drugs and on crime. It spread to the schools in 1994, when Bill Clinton's gun-free schools act required schools to suspend all students caught bringing guns on to school grounds for one full year. Zero Tolerance has been gathering momentum ever since, particularly after the killings at Columbine high school in Lyttleton, Colorado (Economist, 1999). The majority of U.S. public schools now have Zero Tolerance policies for violence, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, weapons other than firearms, and firearms (National Centre for Education Statistics, 1998)" (para. 10).

In today's U.S. school system, however, zero tolerance has begun to apply to a variety of infractions regardless of their seriousness. This extension has been viewed with much debate. Some argue that zero-tolerance policies are necessary in a variety of situations because of school safety and the transmission of the values that certain actions are inappropriate. Others state that zero-tolerance policies do not allow teachers and administrators to look at problems on a case-by-case basis, then making decisions regarding punishment or correction in line with a particular student. Indeed, students' differences play a major role when it comes to zero-tolerance policies, and students with emotional disabilities can fair quite poorly when placed in a zero-tolerance environment, as teachers are unable to take into account the extreme circumstances that these students often face. Instead of helping students with emotional disabilities recognize their weaknesses and move forward, zero-tolerance policies offer punishments when support is needed. Thus, because zero tolerance policies are unfairly applied to students with disabilities, they do not allow teachers and administrators to use their better judgment to deal with cases on an individual basis, and because they remove children and teens from the resources that will best support them, zero-tolerance policies are unfair to students with emotional disabilities.

Although one of the intentions of zero-tolerance policies is the equal application across ethnic, racial, linguistic, social, and ability lines, it is clear that these kind of disciplinary codes are not equally reinforced. According to Russell (2000) the term zero-tolerance is often used to suggest that certain actions "will not be tolerated," and that "punishing all offenses severely, no matter how minor" is the manifestation of such policies (pg. 5). However, it is clear that not all offenses are punished severely when zero-tolerance is actually practiced. For instance, it is more likely that a zero-tolerance policy, most of which call for expulsion -- even permanent -- and sometimes suspension, be levied upon a person who is seen as a trouble maker. Stories of children bringing toy guns to school, whether this be on purpose, because the gun was accidentally left in the schoolbag, or because they did not know it was wrong, littered the news during the heyday of zero tolerance. Although some students have been suspended for bringing toy guns and lighters to school, a Michigan high school student received a recommendation for expulsion for forgetting a knife he had purchased while on vacation was still in his backpack -- the student was not expelled after his parents sought legal council (Eggert, 2009). Furthermore, the ACLU contends that the zero-tolerance policies are applied so arbitrarily as to not only target those considered to be trouble makers, but also to pinpoint black students, whom the ACLU contend are disproportionately affected by the policies. Indeed, Skiba and Peterson (1999) found that "researchers have consistently found disproportionate minority representation among students on the receiving end of exclusionary and punitive discipline practices" (pg. 7).

What this suggests for students with emotional disabilities is that zero-tolerance policies are, actually, tolerant of those who positively impress or coerce teachers and administrators. Thus, the policies are likely to be unfairly applied to students with emotional disabilities, as they are likely to be seen as troublemakers, frustrating to teachers, and perhaps even the kind of students whom teachers would appreciate getting out of their classrooms through harsh penalties for actions they may not even be able to control, such as threatening or bullying. Indeed, it is likely that many actions of emotionally disables students are grossly misinterpreted as qualifying for zero-tolerance punishments.

In addition to being applied indiscriminately, zero-tolerance policies also rid teachers and administrators of their ability to uniquely and expertly judge incidents on a case-by-case basis. Especially when it comes to emotionally disabled students, teachers and administrators who know these students are best able to understand them and their actions, determining whether they are threatening or affects of the emotional disability. Further, the teachers and administrators who know students best are best able to assess whether mitigating factors associated with the emotional disability are present, which would result in repealing or softening a student's punishment. Thus, zero tolerance does not allow teachers, students, and administrators to enter into a dialogue regarding the seriousness of an offense and the acceptability of certain actions. Jull (2000) writes:

"Zero Tolerance does not afford students or teachers the opportunity to decide for themselves the terms and conditions defining acceptable social behaviour. Those students whose opinions differ from their school administration's perception of pro-social behaviour will likely be subjected to the consequences of a Zero Tolerance policy more often than their socially conforming peers. Zero Tolerance is an extension of the belief that the status quo and the moral majority determines which types of behaviours are inherently good, and which are not" (para. 12).

As socially non-conforming peers, those with emotional disabilities are likely to be caught in the net of zero tolerance rather than educated about social values and norms.

Indeed, the rehabilitation and resources offered to those with emotional disabilities are other important factors to consider when discussing zero tolerance and students with emotional disabilities. Like other students with special needs, students who are emotionally disabled can learn to function in society through the resources provided by the public schools. Without such resources, it is likely that students become unable to function in society, leading them on a path by which they cannot succeed.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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