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Removing disruptive students from schools is not the common sense approach to improving school safety that it would seem to be, if the schools do not have effective programs designed to prevent disruptive student behavior, according to studies.
"It seems intuitive that removing disruptive students from school will make schools better places for those students who remain, or that severe punishment would improve the behavior of the punished student or those who witness that punishment," a task force of the Washington-based American Psychological Assn. reported in August 2006. "But the available evidence consistently flies in the face of these beliefs. Zero tolerance of disruptive or violent behavior has not been shown to improve school climate or school safety."
Removing students from school "for even a few days disrupts their education and often escalates poor behavior by removing them from a structured environment and giving them increased time and opportunity to get into trouble," conclude the authors of "Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline," a 2005 report by the New York-based NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc.
In addition, "some kids have a (psychological) need to be punished," said Steven Dranoff, a child psychologist and president of D&D Industrial Consulting Inc. of Clifton N.J. "They'll have a heyday" at schools with strict zero tolerance policies, he said.
Meanwhile, contrary to schools' justifications that they are removing dangerous students, "examples abound of students facing removal from school and criminal sanctions for conduct such as pushing other students, throwing food, cursing, or disobeying a teacher," note the authors of the NAACP study. They also noted that preschoolers face an exceptionally high expulsion rate.
--By Dave Lenckus