American Bar Association: Criminal Justice Section. 2001. Zero Tolerance Report. Available online at (accessed August 27, 2003). Ayers, William, Bernardine Dohrn and Rick Ayers, eds. 2001. New York: New Press. The term zero tolerance was first used by President Ronald Reagan`s administration when it launched its “war on drugs” initiative in the early 1980s. Some school districts welcomed the initiative to eliminate drug possession and use on school grounds. However, the policy became law when Congress passed the Drug-Free Schools and Campuses Act of 1989 (Pub.L. 101-226, December 12, 1989, 103 Stat. 1928).
The law prohibited the illegal consumption, possession, or distribution of drugs and alcohol by students and employees on school and university campuses. It required education agencies and colleges to impose disciplinary action for violations or risk losing federal aid. As a result, the majority of schools and colleges immediately began implementing zero-tolerance policies to secure their federal funding. While the law does not take into account mitigating circumstances, a DUI attorney can still represent and protect the legal rights of an accused person under a zero-tolerance law. They may also be able to review police procedures and the circumstances of an individual case to argue for a reduced sentence. Despite the backlash, zero tolerance remained a central element of school administration. Zero tolerance for guns, in particular, is a top priority, in part because of a series of school shootings that culminated in the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy in Colorado. Some school administrators have turned to a zero-tolerance policy because they need to react quickly and decisively to maintain control and discipline. They claim that such guidelines can be communicated clearly and categorically to students so that they understand that discipline is immediate and predictable. Finally, another reason school administrators have a zero-tolerance policy is legal liability.
A school that does not have a zero-tolerance policy risks a civil lawsuit from victims of school violence. This letter reviews the literature on the implementation and impact of zero-tolerance policies in schools and presents evaluated alternative policies that have improved student outcomes and school safety. In the child for money scandal, Judge Mark Ciavarella, who promoted a zero-tolerance platform, received bribes for building a private prison housing juvenile delinquents, then filled the prison by sentencing children to extended stays in juvenile detention for offenses as minimal as mocking a director on Myspace. hallway fights, trespassing in an empty building, and Walmart shoplifting DVDs. Critics of the zero-tolerance policy argue that harsh penalties for minor offenses are normalized. The documentary Kids for Cash interviews teen behavior experts who argue that the zero-tolerance model became a dominant approach to youth crime surveillance after the Columbine shooting.  This report aims to engage people in discussing the negative effects of zero-tolerance measures and propose alternative methods that have reduced violence in schools and improved the learning environment. It reviews the different effects on students of color; the growing role of law enforcement in schools; gives examples of the school-prison pipeline in Denver, Chicago and Palm Beach; and presents the first solutions.
An earlier use of the term occurred in the mid-1960s in reference to an absolute ban on the pesticide heptachlor by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For example, an article in the June 1963 issue of Popular Mechanics stated: “Heptachlor, however, is even more toxic and has received `zero tolerance` from the FDA; That is, even the slightest trace of heptachlor is not allowed on food.  Various institutions have adopted zero-tolerance policies, such as in the military, workplaces and schools, to eliminate various types of illegal behavior such as harassment. Proponents hope such policies will underscore directors` commitment to preventing such behavior. Others are concerned about this zero-tolerance policy, a concern that stems from an analysis of omissions and commission errors. More recently, argumentation theorists (notably Sheldon Wein) have suggested that when people advocate zero-tolerance policies, they often commit what he called the “zero-tolerance fallacy.”  Wein subsequently proposed standards that arguments in favour of a zero-tolerance policy must meet in order to avoid such erroneous conclusions.  However, a study published by the Advancement Project in 2000 suggested that zero tolerance, while supposedly a neutral policy, was disproportionately applied to students of color. These concerns led the American Bar Association (ABA) in 2001 to pass a resolution fundamentally opposing zero-tolerance policies that (1) have a discriminatory effect or (2) establish a mandatory sentence regardless of the circumstances or nature of the offense or the student`s background. The ABA concluded that such “universal” policies violate students` due process rights.
While the organization urged schools to maintain strict prevention policies, it also wanted to ensure that students` rights are protected when sanctioned. The reasoning is that failure to prohibit unacceptable behaviour can lead to errors of omission and too little is done. However, zero tolerance can be seen as a reckless form of management, which can make it seem like “too much is being done.” If people are concerned that their colleagues or classmates may be fired, fired or expelled, they may not come forward at all if they consider behaviour unacceptable. (This is a classic example of Type I and Type II errors.) Therefore, an overly strict policy can actually reduce reports of illegal behavior.  This article examines the history, philosophy and effectiveness of zero-tolerance policies in schools. Few studies report that zero-tolerance policies improve student behaviour or school safety, and instead find that research on suspension and exclusion – essential elements of the zero-tolerance policy – raises serious concerns about the consistency, fairness and effectiveness of such discipline. Zero-tolerance laws apply beyond underage drinking and driving. Driving after a single serving of an alcoholic beverage would not normally be a criminal offence for an adult of legal drinking age. However, landing a driver under 21 with automatic underage drunk driving fees in all 50 states might be enough. Zero-tolerance policies are studied in criminology and are common in formal and informal policing systems around the world. The guidelines also apply in informal situations where sexual harassment or abuse on the Internet may occur in educational and professional environments. In 2014, mass incarceration in the United States for minor offenses caused an uproar over the enforcement of zero tolerance in schools and communities.
  Application example: “There is a zero-tolerance policy for smoking: smoking is not allowed at all on company premises.” The term is used in the context of driving under the influence of alcohol to refer to a lower blood alcohol level in drivers under the age of 21.  The legal limit is 0.08% in almost all U.S. states. Utah is the exception with 0.05%. For drivers under 21, the prohibited level is 0.01% or 0.02% in 16 states, which is also true in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, despite its drinking age of 18. According to the online dictionary of etymology, the term “zero tolerance” was first used in 1972 and was originally used in American politics.  There are zero-tolerance laws that apply to many situations, but they often relate to the relationship between driving and alcohol. To combat the dangers of underage drinking, zero-tolerance laws mean it is a criminal offence of impaired driving for any motorist under the legal drinking age in their system. In general, advocates of zero tolerance aim to rid society of all illicit drug use, and that the criminal justice system plays an important role in this regard.  The Swedish Parliament, for example, established the vision of a drug-free society as the official goal of the country`s drug policy in 1978.