Pop quiz time everybody. What do you do when a 12 year-old girl draws some doodles on a desk?
a. Make her clean the graffiti off of the desk.
b. Give her detention after school.
c. Call the police and have her arrested.
If you answer ‘c’ to the above question you are qualified to be the principal at the Junior High School in Forest Hills, New York. That’s right a 12 year-old girl wrote, “I love my friends Abby and Faith. Lex was here 2/1/10 :)” on her desk with a marker. Shortly after the police were called and the girl was handcuffed and arrested.
This is another grand example of how zero tolerance policies work. You establish that there will be no tolerance for graffiti and if somebody doodles on a desk you call the police. Time and time again we are reminded that laws enforced without consideration of context does nothing more than create a police state where people expect to be arrested the second they do something that isn’t approved.
For an example outside of schools let’s say there is a zero tolerance policy put into place that states killing another human being is illegal. Of course this sounds OK on paper under you realize since no consideration is made for the event somebody who was legally defending themselves would be charged for murder. The linked story has a list of other abuses of zero tolerance as well as police involvement in things that should be handled by school administrators.