Zero Tolerance for College Students Gladwell stated in, “No Mercy” (2006), “this is the age of zero tolerance. ” Zero tolerance policies, which are regulations for specific issues such as weapons, drugs, cheating and alcohol, are adopted by many schools and workplaces today. According to a government study, more than three quarters of the schools in America use zero policy to restrict students from misconduct. However, statistics show that there is no evidence proving that bad behaviors get deterred or prevented after the application of zero tolerance policy.
This is especially true for young adults since they are more likely to misbehave. In this paper, I argue that the use of discretion is crucial to maintain fairness and each violation case should be treated differently due to its circumstance. Zero tolerance policy is not appropriate for young adults at all times. Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist, got really depressed after his fight with his mother and broke up with his girlfriend at the age of twenty-one. After he was forced to make films of beryllium in a laboratory in Cambridge, he dosed an apple and tried to poison his tutor.
Though this was a severe case, the staff at Cambridge considered that it was the student’s first violation and they did not want to ruin this young gentleman’s future, so they did not file charges. Many people, including me, would argue that zero tolerance policy should be applied since the student was attempting to kill somebody. However, admittedly, the use of discretion in this matter saved Oppenheimer’s future and changed the atomic history for he was later known as, “the father of the atomic bomb” for his contribution in the Manhattan Project and the World War II project.
If Oppenheimer had been expelled by Cambridge because zero tolerance policy, we might have lost a great physicist. Additionally, on drugs and alcohol issues, zero tolerance should be carried out strictly. According to Li’s article in Dailybruin (2010), UCLA police will apply the zero tolerance policy of alcohol usage during the first week of school. Students who are caught drinking will be fined tickets and will lose their licenses if they are under twenty-one.
Young adults drinking is a grave issue; students who are drunk are more vulnerable to sexual crimes, drunk people’s brains will get damaged when they experience black-outs, and, most importantly, drinking has a high potential for health problems. Statistics show that “the most serious health risks occur when students are first returning to school. ” (Dailybruin, 2010). The same potential causes exist in drug issues as well. For these devastating aftereffects, the zero tolerance policies of alcohol and drugs must be executed.
Though bringing weapons to school looks like a serious issue, there are different situations for different cases that should be judged separately. It is necessary to expel or even take the student to the court if he brings weapons to school as threats. The Columbine High School Massacre, also known as Columbine, took place on April 20, 1999 in Colorado. Two seniors, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, used bombs, killed twelve students and one teacher and wounded twenty-one students. Furthermore, three students got injured during their escapes.
The two young boys later committed suicides. After Columbine, many American schools started to set up zero tolerance policies to make the school a safer place and to protect the students. Another weapon incident happened at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia on April 16, 2007. Seung-Hui Cho, an English major senior who was previously diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder, killed thirty-two people and injured seventeen in two separate attacks that are two hours apart by estimation.
This attack remains the highest casualty by a single gunman in United States history. Such incidents that include severe casualties and injuries should be taken seriously and the offenders should be harshly punished by being expelled, suspended and taken to court. Zero tolerance policy should be brought into effect in such serious incidents. However, other cases where weapons are not used as harmful hurting tools should not be applied upon zero tolerance policy.
The two examples that Urbina provided in “It’s a Fork, It’s a Spoon, It’s a … Weapon? ” (2009) clearly proved this point. A third-grade girl got expelled for receiving a birthday cake along with a knife from her grandmother. The knife was meant to cut the birthday cake, not to hurt anyone. Also, Zachery had to spend forty-five days in his district’s reform school for bringing a camping utensil that can serve as a knife, fork or spoon for lunch to school because he got too excited about joining the Cub Scouts.
In such cases where the children are no more than innocent youths making some minors mistakes subconsciously, a thorough use of discretion should be put into practice. Cheating, as another element of zero tolerance policy, ought to be judged differently due to the situations and the cheaters. During my freshman year in high school in China, I was a straight A+ student. However I was once falsely accused cheating and offered a zero on the test when the girl sitting next to me tried to copy my answers during the mid-term examination.
The case got solved since the monitoring camera taped the whole thing and proved that I was doing nothing wrong. Jack, a naughty boy I knew from middle school, never paid attention to the teacher and always cheated during quizzes and tests. He was caught cheating last year during a final and got suspended. It was agreed by the majority of people in my school that suspension was fair to other students and Jack needed the warning. The use of discretion is vital in judging a violation case.
As the examples above have shown, different situations require the use of discretion to maximize the fairness and the effectiveness of a judgmental decision. A wrong decision would have harmful influences on the offender’s future and even ruin his life. A careful treatment towards the misdeeds of young college students is essential for an institution that should take up the responsibility of educating future generations. If zero tolerance policy is applied in all violation cases, how many students would colleges have left?