Jay's World of Abstracts

Jay's World of Abstracts 00013

Taking the Alternative Route

Zero-tolerance policies are pushing more kids out of traditional schools. Here's where they go.
by Sonja Steptoe
Time Magazine, January 13, 2003, pp. 50-51.

[Standard disclaimer: The nature of abstracts are that they are pieces of something larger. Not everyone is going to be happy with my choice of abstracts from any larger work, so if you are dissatisfied, I would refer you to the original document, which should be able to be found on the Internet. I encourage others to make their own abstracts to satisfy their needs.

Jay's Introduction

Since our Substance Abuse Core Team, at one time, set as its aim the encouragement of zero-tolerance for substance abuse in our county, I had scoured the Web for anything on the subject. This one just popped out of my mailbox, of all places.

This is a look at one instance of how "zero tolerance" was applied and its aftermath.

I produced this abstract using time paid for by the Quay County Maternal Child and Community Health Council with funds from the New Mexico Department of Health.


Sitting on a folding chair in his cap and gown, surrounded by proud friends and teachers, Eduardo, 18, looks like any other happy December graduate as he opens a gift-wrapped box containing a new watch. But only nine months ago, Eduardo, who doesn't want his last name published, was removed from a Los Angeles high school for what he calls "a lot of bad behavior," including truancy, failing grades, and drug use. He was transferred to Northeast Juvenile Justice Center, and alternative school for troubled kids who have left the traditional educational system. "It seemed like it was all over for me because I had messed up so much," says Eduardo. "But here I am graduating."

Facilities like Northeast Juvenile Justice Center have become a solution for school officials who want to get troublemaking students out of mainstream classrooms but are required by state law to educate them. The Department of Education says the number of schools for students who break the rules ballooned from 2,606 in the 1993-94 academic year to 4,818 in 2000-01.


A 13-year-old boy who was expelled under zero-tolerance rules last June -- he accidently cut his best friend while playing with a pen knife at school -- will return to his school district next fall because, Corella says, "he's a strong A student with no behavior problems, and his offense was minor." When a student has serious anger problems, however, "it's a big red flag," she says. "That kid's probably better off with us because zero tolerance will eat him alive."

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