Illinois schools banning zero-tolerance policies

By Ryne Turke on September 19, 2016 at 1:38pm

District 117’s superintendent says the state’s recent action of banning zero-tolerance rules won’t have an impact on schools in Jacksonville.

The law that took effect last week is designed to reduce the number of days students are pulled from classrooms and encourage school administrators to use suspensions as a last resort.

Steve Ptacek says there was a trend in Illinois schools about ten years ago that instituted the zero-tolerance policies, which required mandated expulsions for things like possession of drugs or weapons at school.

Ptacek is in favor of the Senate Bill 100 ruling that ditches the mandatory zero-tolerance policy use.

“We have to analyze each cases on a case by case basis and come to a separate decision. It does not prevent a school board from ensuring a safe and academically focused environment. It just says you need to make that determination after you have evaluated the evidence, instead of making the determination by policy before you evaluated the evidence.”

Ptacek feels it won’t be a big issue for other Illinois school districts either.

“I think most superintendents and school boards have been analyzing situations on a case by case basis instead of a zero-tolerance policy. There is always a situation you could think of where you could say would you expel every student who did X? Somebody could probably come up with a reason why there would be a student who did X who didn’t get expelled. That is all this policy is really addressing.”

According to the Associated Press, Colorado and North Carolina eliminated zero-tolerance policies in 2011.

During the 2015 school year in Illinois, more than 296,400 students were suspended, down from nearly 340,000 in 2014. Suspensions longer than 10 days were almost cut in half from 2014 to 2015.