Many schools across the United States have enacted zero-tolerance philosophy in response to perceived increases in violence and drugs in schools. It is believed that aggressive and unwavering punishment of many school infractions, including relatively minor infractions, will create safer schools. However, a zero-tolerance policy is said to have contributed to an increased number of disciplinary actions and an increased number of students who come in contact with the court system. The effects of the policy include the removal of students from the educational system, through disciplinary actions such as expulsions and suspensions. These disciplinary actions have negative unintended consequences for families and society.
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) received grant funding from the Atlantic Philanthropies, Public Welfare Foundation, and the Open Society Foundation to provide training and technical assistance to jurisdictions preparing to start or continue initiatives with judicially-led collaboratives to reduce stringent school discipline and referrals of youth to juvenile courts for school-based behaviors. Additional funding was provided by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to conduct a process and outcome evaluation. This research report discusses the findings from the process and outcome evaluation, including some lessons learned about the challenges of collecting data on this complex issue.