Zero tolerance is an administrative policy that allows a school to suspend or expel a student for committing certain exceptionally dangerous activities, regardless of the student’s intent or the circumstances of the situation. Schools typically enact zero tolerance policies in order to send a strong message against certain behavior.

What Disciplinary Actions Does Zero Tolerance Impose on Violations?

If you commit an act that is punishable under zero tolerance, you may be expelled from school for no less than a year. The circumstances surrounding your act will not be relevant in determining your punishment. The punishment imposed by zero tolerance is mandatory.

What Kinds of Behavior Are Subject to Zero Tolerance?

Zero tolerance was originally created to prevent students from bringing guns to school, but many school districts have expanded the scope of zero tolerance to include other activities. Some of the most common types of behavior that receive zero tolerance are:

  • Possession of a weapon of any kind: This can include possession of guns, knives, or even fake weapons. Zero tolerance does not depend on what the student intends to use the weapon for. In some school districts, a student bringing an old sword for show and tell is just as liable as a student bringing a gun with the intention of shooting someone under a zero tolerance policy.
  • Possession or sale of illegal drugs
  • Rape
  • Arson

Is There Anything I Can Do If I Am Caught with a Weapon?

Generally, the zero tolerance policy makes it a very bad idea to bring a weapon to school. If you are caught, you will be subject to mandatory suspension or expulsion for no less than a year. However, there are some states that have enacted exceptions to the zero tolerance policy. For example:

  • Some states make an exception for students who immediately report to school officials that they have a weapon.
  • Some states will enact the zero policy procedures but then allow students to appeal to the school board and explain the circumstances surrounding the infraction. If the school board believes that the student’s actions did not pose an ongoing threat, the student’s punishment can be lessened or changed as is appropriate.

Must the School Provide an Expelled Student with Alternative Education?

No. While some schools will place expelled students in alternative placement programs, most states hold that schools are not required to provide students who have been expelled under a zero tolerance policy with alternative education.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have questions about zero tolerance, or if you have been expelled or suspended under a zero tolerance policy, you may want to contact a government lawyer. An attorney will be able to tell you more about the rules in your school district and how they affect your rights. If necessary, a lawyer will be able to represent you in any administrative hearings that might occur.