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'Zero-Tolerance' Discipline Disproportionately Affects Students Of Color, With Disabilities

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Texas’ most vulnerable students are unequally punished for disruptive, unruly behavior. Punitive disciplinary policies often lead to pushing students with disabilities and students of color out of the classroom, limiting their ability to succeed academically. 

Some schools have implemented "zero tolerance" policies under which a school infraction can result in a student going from the classroom to the justice system -- the so-called “school-to prison pipeline" -- which disproportionately affects students of color. From 2017-2018, black students made up 13% of the student population in Texas, but received 33% of all out-of-school suspensions

An alternative to zero-tolerance policies is “restorative justice,” where educators look for the root causes of bad behavior, give offending students age-appropriate support to address and correct negative actions. 

What are the challenges for transitioning schools from zero-tolerance to restorative disciplinary approaches? What resources are needed? What are the benefits? How is restorative justice being implemented in in San Antonio schools?


"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 210-614-8980, email thesource@tpr.org  or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, February 18.

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Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.
Dallas Williams is a Producer for The Source at Texas Public Radio. With a degree in Mass Communication — Broadcast Media, Dallas brings a unique perspective and a passion to producing a live, call-talk show.