Attorney General recommends easing school zero-tolerance - CBS46 News

Attorney General recommends easing school zero-tolerance

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

Parents agree that when it comes to bullying or bringing a gun to class school officials should be tough.

"There shouldn't be tolerance for things like bullying, fighting or drug use," said Katie Howard, whose twin daughters attend an Atlanta pre-school.

Howard said, however, not all offenses are equal.

"Some things are not implemented appropriately or enforced appropriately," Howard said. "Some things are minor offenses, so suspending kids doesn't encourage them to stay in school and do any better."

School-based zero-tolerance policies are designed to punish quickly and strictly.

The Obama Administration, however, believes the punishments are often harsher than the offenses.

"Nationwide as many as 95 percent of out of school suspensions are for non-violent misbehavior," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Duncan questioned whether policies that suspend or expel students for such infractions as smoking or truancy are too severe.

"Is putting children out of school the best solution, the best remedy for those problems?" Duncan asked.

According to federal findings, the punishment is often harsher than the offense when it comes to students of color.

Attorney General, Eric Holder, said zero-tolerance policies are well-intentioned but unfairly applied.

"If you're a kid with a disability, if you're a kid of color, under these zero-tolerance approaches you are, unfairly, likely to be suspended. That is a reality we have to confront," Holder said.

According to government civil rights data, black students and students with disabilities are three times more likely than white students to be expelled or suspended.

The Obama Administration on Wednesday recommended schools back off tough across-the-board punishments and treat each infraction on its own merits.

Natalie Washington, a mother of a third grader, believes punishment should also focus on how to correct bad behavior.

"Maybe we should look at alternative programs to assist these students instead of just putting them out of school," Washington said.

The Obama Administration's recommendations also included: encouraging schools to ensure all personnel are trained in classroom management and conflict resolution, as well as ensuring school staff understand they are responsible for routine discipline instead of security or police.

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