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YUC survey takes hard look at zero tolerance policies

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Youth United for Change (YUC), a citywide student organization, has conducted a survey of high school students about the impact of the District’s zero tolerance policy.

That policy requires school administrators to immediately suspend, with intent to expel, when there are probable grounds to suspect that a student has committed a violent offense.

Concerned that this approach is punitive and discards troubled students rather than encouraging better behavior, YUC issued the survey at the end of last school year. Questions were designed to assess the effects of the policy and whether students think it is applied fairly by school security and administration. Results will be released in November along with a set of recommendations.

Students were surveyed about their understanding of the policy and their experiences with school security. Questions also addressed school suspensions, exploring whether certain groups were disproportionately punished.

YUC partnered with the Advancement Project for technical assistance with research methods and analysis. A recent national report by the Advancement Project concluded that zero tolerance policies do not make schools safer, but rather damage school climate and academic performance, increase dropout rates, and alienate students from their community.

“We believe we need to change the way the District is disciplining students,” said Britney White, YUC member and senior at Kensington CAPA.

“What the District is doing is not right because they are taking small issues and making them bigger than they have to be.”

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