Zero Tolerance Behavior Policies are a fungus threatening to grow out of control in some schools but not in Community High Hallway 2.0. They say, “No to Zero.”
First hour has just ended and students pour out of classrooms and into the bright hallways filled with murals created by students at the school.
Animated chatter, joking, and banter back and forth among students and school personnel fill the air. Administrators walk the hallways and teachers stand outside of their classroom doors with the purpose of motivating students to not dally at their lockers or dawdle with friends on their way to the next class.
Minutes later the tardy bell rings and some students make a mad dash to be on the other side of the door when it is closed. Punctuality is an important trait, but some teachers also realize that strict punctuality is a holdover from an industrial economy that required workers to be punctual in order that costly machines not be kept idle. Some teachers are flexible about not locking their doors after the tardy bell and allow students to enter a few minutes late without a pass as long as they enter quietly and not disturb their peers. After all, everyone is late for something at some point in their lives is their reasoning.
Fifteen minutes into the period, a ninth grade student wearing baggy pants strides aimlessly through the school hallway without a pass or his student ID. A teacher sees him and inquires in a firm but non-confrontational tone, “Sir, where do you belong now? Are you headed to class?
Embarrassed, the student looks away but replies, “I was 15 minutes late, and the teacher had locked the door. “
In an even tone, the teacher further inquires, “Is there any way I can help remedy the situation? Are you frequently late?
Frustrated, the student responds, “No, but today is not a good day for me; I lost my ID, left my homework home. Maybe I should just go back home.”
The teacher asks, “What’s your name young man? What year are you?
A security officer outfitted in a burgundy blazer, dark trousers, and wearing a badge that identifies him as Officer Wentworth spots the two in hall and inquires if everything is OK. He notices that the student is not displaying his ID.
The teacher answers, “Good Morning Officer Wentworth, this young man and I were just becoming acquainted. His name is Jose Alexander.
Security officer Wentworth inquires, “Mr. Alexander, I see you are not wearing your ID today.”
The students looks off into the distance and replies, “I seem to have misplaced it.”
In an even tone, the security officer informs, “You know there is a penalty for not having your ID. I’m going to let you off with a warning Mr. Alexander. But we need to be extra careful now with so many acts of violence taking place to make certain that only people who belong in the school house are here. Are you “feelin me”? Can you prove that you belong here?
The student shows him his books, notebooks, papers with his name on them and gives him the name of his counselor.
The security officer requests that he belt his pants as he writes his name on a form. The teacher escorts him to the library and instructs him to quietly work on an assignment.
Community High Hallway- 2.0-School Culture
A culture where troublesome behavior is solved in a non-confrontational matter whenever possible filters through Community High Hallway 2.0. It is a school with a soul and a heart. School administrators have decided that security officers’ wearing a blazer and trousers present less of an institutional/jail house feel. Security personal patrolling hallway 2.0 are called security officers instead of guards and display a badge that clearly identifies them by name. Students have been repeatedly instructed via assemblies and class meetings to address them by the title of officer and to include their last name when possible. Because students are bombarded daily by declining communities, massive unemployment, and dysfunctional family life, security guards are trained to be sensitive to the emotional frustrations of students.
Educators in Hallway 2.0 understand that our verbal and nonverbal behaviors influence student behaviors and responses. The voice serves as a weapon of confrontation or as a tool of cooperation.
“I have come to the conclusion that I am the decisive element in the school house. As a security officer OR teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response (voice) that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or dehumanized and wind up trapped in the school to prison pipeline” With Thanks to Haim Ginott, psychologist
While patrolling the halls, it is often necessary to make requests of students with whom adults have developed no relationship. In attempting NOT to be confrontational with students in the hall, and thereby not lose control of the situation, security personnel have been educated to approach students with a firm but non-threatening tone, addressing them by “young man,” “sir,” “mister.” “young lady,” or “miss,” if they do not know their names. In addition, the use of “please” and “thank you” when making requests increases cooperation.
“Sir, thank you for picking up that popcorn that you just spilled on the floor; I appreciate it very much.”
“Young lady, where is your pass? You are in violation of the Student Code of Conduct (or whatever the student discipline/culture code is called in your district”.
“Young man, please refrain from…”
(NEVER call an African-American teenage male “boy” unless it is your INTENT is to be aggressive, disrespectful, hostile, or to escalate a situation.)
Security personnel keep repeating the request in a firm tone (not pleading or begging) until they gain cooperation. Using this approach lets the students know that the adult is the voice of authority and reason, but we care because we are giving respect (R-E-S-P-E-C-T) by addressing them in a positive manner.
Guiding Philosophy- Saying “No” to Zero Tolerance
According to the Center for Civil Rights at UCLA, Zero Tolerance Behavior Policies were responsible for over 1,000.000 middle and high school students being suspended during the school year 2009 and 2010, Suspensions were for infractions that did not include violent behavior. Such punishments increase the likelihood that students will drop out of school.
The staff at Community High School 2.0 have made a conscious decision that Zero Behavior Policies will not be tolerated in their school house. Understanding that such policies unnecessarily criminalize nonviolent behaviors and lock in students who are most emotionally and economically vulnerable into a school-to-prison pipeline trap.
The philosophy that guides behavior policies at the school: Are students displaying deviant behaviors or normal developmental behaviors ?
Deviant behaviors such as extortion, carrying weapons, possessing controlled substances need outside intervention from law enforcement, a social service agency and/or parents.
However, normal developmental behaviors come with the job of educating young people: talking back, not wearing an ID, wearing inappropriate clothing, cheating, in-school truancy, cell phone use, etc. and, therefore, should be handled INSIDE of the school house. Thus, preventive and intervention measures are put into place, such as using the voice as a tool for cooperation, contracts, class meetings, assemblies, student government, etc.
In the compliant hallways (1.0) of some schools, Zero Tolerance Behavior Policies are a fungus threatening to grow out of control but not in Community High Hallway 2.0. They say, “No to Zero.”