Zero Tolerance Reform Bill Advances in Georgia

Last Updated: March 26, 2010

This article appeared in the March 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

Editor's note: Links are free and current at time of posting, but may require registration or expire over time.

As reported in January RSFN, Georgia legislators are taking steps to limit the use of zero tolerance policies by school officials against students in the state. A bill that would give school officials more discretion on whether students are arrested or detained has unanimously passed the state Senate and is headed for the house.

Under current law, a student found with a weapon in school receives a mandatory felony charge, and a standing court order is used to detain the student without a hearing. This has resulted in students being arrested for having objects not typically considered weapons and posing no threat.

In a well-known incident in the state, a student who accidentally brought a knife to school was arrested and detained overnight after he attempted to turn the knife over to school administrators. Additionally, the student was placed in an alternative school before being allowed to return to his school.

Zero-tolerance policies, first implemented nationwide by districts in the 1990s, remove local administrators’ ability to use their own discretion in determining punishments meted out to students accused of certain offenses such as drug or weapon possession. Now, research is revealing that such policies are contributing to a school-to-prison pipeline for many students who are punished with zero tolerance and as a result, lose their opportunity to achieve educational, and often, lifelong success.

Read more:

Local coverage on the bill’s progress through the Senate and background on the sponsor’s motivation:

Information on the Georgia student who was arrested for turning in his knife:

Read more from the March 2010 Rural Policy Matters.