Unintended Consequences: The Impact of ‘Zero Tolerance’ and Other Exclusionary Policies on Kentucky Students

Published On: February 1, 2003

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This report found that Kentucky’s African-American youth are suspended from many schools at rates far higher than the suspension rates for Kentucky’s white students. The report also found that tens of thousands of students are suspended from Kentucky’s schools each year for minor school board policy violations. In addition to the problem with suspensions, the authors found that many, many youth are being referred to Kentucky’s courts for minor and mischievous behaviors that are not criminal. The report recommends that Kentucky school administrators provide a safe environment for students, but not one that relies on harsh and inflexible ‘zero tolerance’ policies. Instead, where student misconduct is alleged, school officials should exercise sound discretion that considers the individual student and the particular circumstances of the incident. The report suggests that students should be removed from school by suspension or expulsion only as a last resort and administrators should develop alternatives to out-of-school suspension and expulsion to hold students accountable. School districts should insure that their disciplinary policies and practices do not fall disproportionately on youth of color.

This was created for Building Blocks for Youth, a project of the Youth Law Center.

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