Sixth Grader Adrionna Harris convinced a classmate to stop cutting himself with a razor, took the razor from him, and threw it away. Believing she’d done the right thing, Harris voluntarily shared this story with school administrators. In response: she received ten days’ suspension and threatened expulsion.
“I took the razorblade, and then I threw it away immediately … I didn’t carry it around the school … I didn’t use it against anyone … I threw it away,” Harris told WAVY in Virginia Beach.
But Bayside Middle School officials determined that Adrionna violated the school’s “zero tolerance” policy because she “did not bring the razor to a teacher” and instead threw it away and “mentioned it to a guidance counselor only the next day.”
Harris was suspended and initially sentenced to ten days out of school, and a recommended expulsion. But after outcry in the community, the principal determined this week that she could return to school with a clean record on Friday.
“Zero tolerance” policies are part of a trend that funnels kids out of school, and sometimes serves as an entree to the criminal justice system in what is known as the school-to-prison pipeline. Even when they don’t land kids initially in juvenile detention, however, they have a disproportionate impact on minorities and students with disabilities. And a new U.S. Department of Education report released Friday finds that these disparities start as early as preschool. Staff and administrators who dole out these punishments, meanwhile, face very little accountability. As Jonathan Turley points out, the principal at this particular middle school was named a 2013 Outstanding Secondary School Assistant Principal of the Year.