After years of inflicting embarrassing injustices under so-called “zero-tolerance” policies, a new law mandates that school districts revise their policies so that only students who truly pose a threat to school safety are expelled or hauled off to jail.
We all have heard the ridiculous stories of zero-tolerance rules being administered absent common sense; like the 10-year-old elementary student who was arrested because her mother had packed a steak knife in her lunch.
Sadly, the law intended to keep our children from harm ultimately did immeasurable harm of its own by inflicting needless punishment and fear for minor and often unintended offenses.
“We want to ensure that students referred to law enforcement pose a serious threat,” Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Frank Peterman said recently. “We hope that a larger number of children will be redirected away from incarceration through alternative solutions.”
We are pleased that the Legislature acted to undo the injustices and insanities of Florida’s over-the-top zero-tolerance law. Now, the mandate is for local schools to mete out punishment fairly and sensibly.
The editorial that appears above was first printed on Dec. 15 in The Gainesville Sun. It was reprinted here with permission from The Associated Press. The views expressed in the editorial do not necessarily reflect those of the South Florida Times.
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