Recommended: Ending Zero Tolerance The Crisis of Absolute School Discipline, Derek W. Black

Ending Zero Tolerance The Crisis of Absolute School Discipline, Derek W. Black

From publisher’s web site:

In the era of zero tolerance, we are flooded with stories about schools issuing draconian punishments for relatively innocent behavior. One student was suspended for chewing a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun. Another was expelled for cursing on social media from home. Suspension and expulsion rates have doubled over the past three decades as zero tolerance policies have become the normal response to a host of minor infractions that extend well beyond just drugs and weapons. Students from all demographic groups have suffered, but minority and special needs students have suffered the most. On average, middle and high schools suspend one out of four African American students at least once a year.

The effects of these policies are devastating.  Just one suspension in the ninth grade doubles the likelihood that a student will drop out. Fifty percent of students who drop out are subsequently unemployed. Eighty percent of prisoners are high school drop outs. The risks associated with suspension and expulsion are so high that, as a practical matter, they amount to educational death penalties, not behavioral correction tools. Most important, punitive discipline policies undermine the quality of education that innocent bystanders receive as well—the exact opposite of what schools intend.

Ending Zero Tolerance answers the calls of grassroots communities pressing for integration and increased education funding with a complete rethinking of school discipline. Derek Black, a former attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, weaves stories about individual students, lessons from social science, and the outcomes of courts cases to unearth a shockingly irrational system of punishment. While schools and legislatures have proven unable and unwilling to amend their failing policies, Ending Zero Tolerance argues for constitutional protections to check abuses in school discipline and lays out theories by which courts should re-engage to enforce students’ rights and support broader reforms.


  • “Zero-tolerance policies fuel the school-to-prison pipeline and disproportionately deny educational opportunities to already disadvantaged student populations. In this volume, Derek Black not only describes the problem but proposes a solution—intervention by state and federal courts.  In an era when many are losing faith in courts to protect students, Black makes a persuasive case that courts can and should play a productive role in safeguarding the basic rights of students.  This book is a cogent, comprehensive, and creative resource for all those who seek to dismantle one of the most pervasive contributors to educational inequality in this country.”

    —James E. Ryan, Charles William Eliot Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education

  • “Black’s book is necessary reading for educators and those who work with youth, whether during classroom hours or in an after-school setting.”

    Youth Today

  • “With the intent to address the toxic environment that zero tolerance perpetuates, Black outlines a convincing argument that the courts must step in to speed reform and ensure that all students are cared for equally.”

    Library Journal

  • “In Ending Zero Tolerance, Professor Derek Black sheds light on how both law and policy are inviting schools to harshly punish students in ways that greatly harm the disciplined student, his or her peers, academic outcomes and our national commitment to equal educational opportunity. He also proposes insightful and attainable legal reforms that could end this crisis.Ending Zero Tolerance is a must-read for all who are committed to fair discipline policies.”

    —Kimberly Jenkins Robinson, Professor, University of Richmond School of Law

  • “Derek Black has written a magnificent book that shows how the current approach to disciplining children in schools undermines education, discriminates against children of color, and violates the most basic notions of due process.  He makes a compelling case that courts must be involved in reforming school discipline.  This book is must reading for all involved in education and all who care about the American educational system.”

    —Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, University of California, Irvine School of Law

  • “Now is the time to revisit much of the legal thinking about the constitutional rights of public school students, because so many of them were originally pronounced during the Civil Rights Era… There is no question that Ending Zero Tolerance will be of great interest to a diverse audience of people interested in public education.”

    —Kevin Brown, Richard S. Melvin Professor of Law Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington

  • “Black convincingly explains how the nation’s inflexible, exclusionary and counterproductive approach to school discipline has swung far out of balance. This extraordinarily important book carefully outlines the legal and policy thinking that should serve as a cornerstone for the lawyers, policymakers and judges who must re-balance this destructive system.”

    —Kevin Welner, co-editor, Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give All Children an Even Chance


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