Zero tolerance: Development of an instrument to measure how zero tolerance is defined and implemented in schools
Zero tolerance, as a disciplinary philosophy, remains a novice ideal. The wide-spread use of zero tolerance in discipline programs as a viable means of behavior control has made it necessary to question the impact of this practice on education. The purpose of this exploratory study was to develop and pilot a reliable instrument to gather information about the concept of zero tolerance as it is perceived by educators and implemented in schools. The data for this study was gathered through an open-ended survey administered to twenty-eight subjects. Information was collected from teachers and administrators in school districts throughout the northeast region. Elementary and secondary practitioners from the private as well as public sector responded. Comments were collated by question and subject using a traditional spreadsheet coding method. Data was analyzed to quantify and illustrate the similarities and differences found in zero tolerance meaning and implementation. The data was also examined to observe the influence of teacher and administrator discretion when making disciplinary decisions and if zero tolerance affected this judgment.
Data provided themes and distinctions in zero tolerance definitions across subjects. A comparison of past disciplinary practices and current trends distinguished zero tolerance from other disciplinary practices. A range of infractions and punishments to which zero tolerance applies were uncovered as were situations in which educators who had zero tolerance in their schools would use discretion when zero tolerance polices were broken. The findings of this exploratory study serve as a foundation for future zero tolerance research.