As mentioned previously, the school system has a perceived obligation to discipline students in an attempt to protect the safety of all staff and students, to preserve the decorum of the school, and also to develop character in students (Kajs, 2006). It is these three notions, along with the public’s perception of the rising issue of youth crime, and federal and provincial legislation that led to the implementation of zero tolerance polices. There are arguably three stages of the zero tolerance policies: there must be a perceived issue by the public, which creates a moral panic and leads to the government taking action to calm the situation by creating legislation and lastly, the school board implementing the regulations and changes.
A qualitative study was conducted by Daniel and Bondy (2008) concerning several school’s opinions on zero tolerance policies and the Safe Schools Act. In the study, 16 qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with teachers, social workers, counsellors and administrators within the school. In relation to the issue of racial discrimination in zero tolerance policies, it is important to note that all of the participants in the study were of Caucasian descent. Due to the small scale of the research, we cannot draw the conclusion that it is representative of all Canadian schools but it provides more context and personal testimonies regarding these policies. The majority of those involved in the study agreed that the Safe Schools Act ‘brought consistency which they equated with fairness although they had some misgivings…’ (Daniel et al., 2008). On the other hand, the article stipulated that suspensions and expulsions did not play a role in deterring the students they were desig...
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Overall, it is quite apparent that zero tolerance policies are inefficient and appear to abuse those involved in the system more often than they protect those who are not. It can also be seen that the media played the largest role in the beginning stages of zero tolerance policies and that moral panics are a factor in government policies relating to school violence. This analysis of how zero tolerance policies became implemented in Canada is crucial to answering the question about why, if zero tolerance policies are negative, did they come into effect and stay for so long. The answer, as demonstrated throughout this paper, is that the public’s perception and unnecessary fear of crime and violence of youth shapes the way the government and school boards deal with deviant behaviour even if their perceptions were the result of a misguided moral panic.
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