Rough lessons — staff editorial

Following a massive melee in the bleachers at a high school football game in Decatur, Ill., six students were expelled for two years from school because of the well-intentioned, but harmful, zero-tolerance policy on fighting in the school district.

The controversial expulsions rightfully brought the absurdity of zero-tolerance fighting policies to light. At the urging of former Sen. Jesse Jackson, state officials seem to be in favor of issuing the students one-year expulsions and placing them in an alternative school.

No tolerance fighting policies in schools are unrealistic. One passionate moment can ruin the life of a young adult. One punch from an otherwise upright student can put that student in an alternative school, where belligerency and high drop-out rates are the norm.

Moreover, zero-tolerance fighting policies do not solve any problems. If anything, expelled students are more likely to turn to drugs and crime.

When altercations erupt in schools, correctional, not punitive, measures should ensue. Expulsion is simply a knee-jerk reaction. It is the easy way out – protection of the good students from the bad students. Corrective measures should be intensive, including dispute mediation, individual counseling and punishments that fit the offense.

Expulsion should be a last resort. Ideally, the education system, public schools in particular, should never give up on troubled students. Before expulsion is even considered, students should be afforded second and third chances to redeem themselves.

But if a student shows a history of unruly behavior, as opposed to any isolated incidents, expulsion should be utilized. In these rare cases, alternative schooling could help the troubled student.

In theory, zero-tolerance policies on fighting in schools should work. But young adults are prone to mistakes, and thus deserve opportunities to redeem themselves.

With no tolerance fighting policies, school boards hurt the very students that they are supposed to help.

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