Obama administration urges schools abandon "zero tolerance" policy

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A call for an end to zero tolerance discipline within schools. The Obama Administration urged schools to abandon the policy that they called over-zealous.

"Alarming numbers of young persons are suspended, they're expelled or even arrested for relatively minor transgressions," Attorney General Eric Holder said.

You've heard the stories. A kindergartner suspended, accused of sexual harassment for kissing his classmate's hand, a teen suspended for hugging his teacher, disciplinary actions following a "zero-tolerance" policy.

"Effective discipline is and always will be a necessity but a routine school discipline infraction should land a student in a principal's office, not in a police precinct," Holder said.

We asked a Region 8 Superintendent to weigh in on the issue.

"I don't think they can just blanket the whole country," Westside Schools Superintendent Bryan Duffie told Region 8 News. "That this is just rampant and happening all the time...of course, it may just depend on who you talk to."

While here in Region 8, we've not heard of such cases, Duffie said their zero-tolerance policy encompasses certain offenses.

"Firearms, terroristic threatening, physical assault, physical abuse," Duffie explained offenses like that can garner automatic suspension, placement at an alternative school or expulsion.

Minor infractions however, "we're gonna deal with it in the principal's office and go from there."

Duffie elaborated that each one is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

"Most of the discipline polices we have and discipline rules there's wiggle room for the principal to make the judgement for how severe the judgement needs to be."

Duffie explained that for some cases, state regulations require them to contact authorities immediately and then have the authorities determine the next steps.

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