ART BY JOSEPH MENDOZA
BY GARY LEE
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this piece are not a reflection of the views of Paw Prints Weekly as a whole. They are the sole views of the author. Paw Prints Weekly celebrates a diverse audience and staff, and it supports the declaration of the duties and rights of a Journalist per the U.S. Constitution.
A battle is only as unjust as the morals that guide it.
The zero-tolerance policy—set to ensure the safety and welfare of most students in North America, prohibits any form of violence, weapons or drugs to be brought into and out of school campuses. This rule applies to anyone who steps on campus, and violating the policy results in suspensions for students and sentencing for adults.
However, despite good intentions, the zero-tolerance policy on campuses has become unfair and unreasonable, specifically towards victims of bullying, discrimination, harassment and all other types of in-school violence.
In current times, schools have become one of the most well-known locations of bullying. Bullying mostly happens due to the imbalance of power among popular or older students against someone smaller or weaker. Incidents often occur due to the more powerful student knowing that their victims will not fight back. Due to the zero-tolerance policy implemented at school, taking physical action is discouraged and shunned at even in the case of self-defense. As a result, little to no actions are taken against the bully. In fact, many students see adult intervention as more detrimental, since they believe this solution is impractical and will only increase the bullying.
For example, in a situation where a student is being bullied, what options do they have? They can either involve an adult or take action themselves. Sometimes neither choice is beneficial as both could either harm the student or escalate the bullying even further.
In the real world, countries outside the United States have completely opposite policies. The most major differences found within the zero-tolerance policy are the rules regarding violence within the schools. In the outside world, if a person gets into a fight, there exists a fair way to prove innocence in the cases of self-defense. However, in many of American schools, almost nothing can be considered a fair resolution for both parties.
Imagine a hypothetical situation: a student just failed their finals, they are depressed and angry at the fact that they did, so on impulse, they started attacking an innocent student on the playground. No eyewitnesses, no one was on the playground at the time. The student fought back, doing anything they can to survive the onslaught of the aggressor’s rage. But then as the students was about to break free from the grasp of death they were stopped, stopped by a custodian wandering around, stopped because as the custodians are concerned, they were just fighting, nothing more nothing less. So after school, they were suspended, suspended without a second thought, suspended without an explanation. It did not matter who started the fight or who was the victim, it did not matter, it was still a fight, and as the zero-tolerance policy states, no violence of any kind was allowed at school.
The majority of times, there is almost no way to prove innocence without evidence, no way to say that they did nothing wrong, nothing but trying to survive. This notion applies that the zero-tolerance policy can punish victims of violence if they are ever found in those types of situations, even if it was not their fault. As sad and as unfair it may be it the reality brought on by the zero-tolerance policy.
Consequently, the element of peer pressure plays a huge factor in the cycle of bullying.
It is circumstances like these that lead students to develop a hatred towards school, especially since the pleas of victims are often drowned out by the influence of the aggressor.
If self-defense were to be legalized within the zero-tolerance policy, barbaric circumstances, as shown above, will be averted. The less fortunate ones have a chance to defend themselves, and individuals will think twice before attacking others.
While amending the zero-tolerance policy is significant, it is only one of the many steps that schools need to take in order to ensure safety for every student. By giving individuals a just and fair system, students may find themselves feeling more secure at school. Not only will changing the policy be crucial to stopping bullies, but it also helps students to better understand and help them to prepare for the differences between school life and real life.
On paper, a ban on any and all violence sounds great and impartial, but what if some students ignore it? What can the victims do if the only options they have are bad ones? Those are the questions that plague the minds of rule regulators, rule-followers and rule-breakers. It is not about how the rules that stops violence affect students, it is about the rules that prevents it from happening in the first place.