Monday, May 02, 2011

High schools' zero tolerance policies are affecting students getting in to colleges

On this day where schools are probably following the news that broke last night from the White House, I wanted to note a Sunday front page story in the Washington Post by Donna St. George about the severe penalties in our school systems for high school students (this time in Fairfax County schools) for possibly minor infractions, under zero tolerance. The link for the story is here

The story followed a particular high school senior expelled from Langley High School after a device capable of using marijuana was found in his backpack, and a residue test of the device was positive. He was allowed to enroll at Marshall High School as a senior. Penalties for possession of any materials associated illegal or even legal non-prescription drugs have met increased penalties in the past ten years, often expulsion. 

Typically, students are allowed to enroll in other high schools or alternative high schools (like Bryant in Fairfax County), but suffer major academic disruption (unless allowed to finish work at home) and serious effects on later college admissions. Even though school systems don’t usually report disciplinary history to colleges, typically admissions packages have a “do ask do tell” policy.

When I was in high school, from 1958-1961 (Washington-Lee in Arlington VA, the new building shown above), there were no lockers or backpacks (just briefcases) and no searches.  There was no excessive concern about possession of non-prescription patent medicines.

When I substitute taught from 2004-2007 in Fairfax and Arlington, there were no searches of teachers or substitute teachers. 

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