Volume 95, Issue 32

Tuesday, October 30, 2001
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'Oh my god - he's whacking off'

Protesters say goodbye to Mike

Who'll cry for Peter Pumpkinhead?

The coppers are hogging all the sweet weed!

Critics care little for zero tolerance

New BRAIN program targets the noggin

Car thieves on the loose at UWO

The world at war

Critics care little for zero tolerance

Lizanor Barrera
Gazette Staff

"Zero Tolerance," a Ontario Tory policy meant to ensure the safety and protection of students in lower school systems, has "taken on a life of its own" say critics.

According to published reports from the government of Ontario, "The Ontario Code of Conduct sets clear provincial standards of behaviour. It specifies the mandatory consequences for student actions that do not comply with these standards."

The Code has two main aspects – respect, civility and responsible citizenship and physical safety in relation to weapons, aggressive behaviour, alcohol and drugs, this latter aspect pertaining to "zero tolerance."

"Zero tolerance was a policy brought into North America about ten years ago and is an expression meant as 'no' tolerance for violence in schools," explained Alan Leschied, an associate Western law professor and a specialist in youth violence.

"It was meant to be a message for students and schools, but now it appears to have taken on a life of its own, based on punishments and sanctions," he said.

"Criminal assault is defined as any intentional application of force without consent," explained London lawyer George Grant. "This includes spit-balls, snowballs and even pushing. This type of behaviour is centuries old, but now, under zero tolerance the police are brought in and the kids are dragged through the system involving courts and probation."

London lawyer Carolyn Ayre said there has been a noticeable increase in minor cases being brought to court ever since the school shootings in Littleton, Colorado and Taber, Alberta.

These problems were previously resolved through mediation using school resources, she added.

"I think what's important is making our schools as safe as possible for all of our children," said Const. Ryan Holland of the London Police Services. "Things that are sometimes seen as a [childish] prank can have serious ramifications."

"These problems occur at school and the courts don't really know what is going on – it's demeaning to the system and ineffective," Grant said. "Sometimes cases are not brought to court until three or four months after the incident and when punishment is not contemporary, it is hard to relate."

While children should be held accountable for their actions, Leschied explained, it is also important to have programs that can provide direction and guidance.

Vice-principal Paul Bottineau of St. Joseph's High School in St. Thomas agrees that the principle of zero tolerance is sound. "But it does become potentially damaging if you don't consider all the elements," he added.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001