Zero Tolerance Policies & Bullying Prevention

Zero tolerance policies for aggressive, violent, or potentially violent behavior have become increasingly common in schools and districts across the country. While they vary with respect to the specific behaviors that will trigger the policy, as well as the consequences of those behaviors, all zero tolerance policies have the potential to hinder bullying prevention efforts.

Because they cast a wide net and bullying is so prevalent in school settings, there is the potential for numerous students to be affected by such policies. Furthermore, zero tolerance policies run counter to the goal of bullying prevention programs to encourage students to report known or suspected bullying. Severe punishments for bullying, such as suspension or exclusion from school, may discourage students and staff from coming forward with their concerns about bullying. Finally, students who bully are in need of positive, prosocial models; removing such children from the potentially positive influence of their peers and school staff may be detrimental -- and it will not stop them from bullying in the future.