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Zero tolerance policy ruled unconstitutional

October 6, 1999 by
Filed under: Government Schools 

A Pennsylvania school’s zero-tolerance policy that mandated a one year suspension for students who bring weapons to school, was ruled unconstitutional. The verdict exonerated a 12-year-old student who was suspended for one year for filing his nails with a Swiss Army knife he found in a school hallway.
The Judge specifically ruled that the policy violated Pennsylvania’s school code, which gives principals the right to grant exceptions to a school policy. In his opinion, Judge Samuel Rodgers wrote that the policy, “frustrates the clear legislative intent that this statute not be blindly applied.”

School administrators were surprised by the ruling because Adam Lyons, the student in the case, had attended a school assembly during which all students heard about the policy. All students were even forced to sign forms saying they understood the policy and its consequences. The school’s efforts to inform students about the zero tolerance policy were irrelevant because the judge ruled that the policy was unconstitutional.

Therefore, if your school tries to suspend you for possessing a weapon on school grounds, you may be able to claim that the policy is unconstitutional because it does not allow exceptions. If you are suspended, you could threaten to sue the school if they do not immediately revoke the suspension. You could mention this case and state that their zero tolerance policy is unconstitutional.

This case may also encourage schools to rethink their zero tolerance policies. Marvin Miller, the family’s attorney, said, “I hope this case will have an impact on all the schools in the commonwealth regarding weapons policies,” Miller said. “They should be using common sense.”

If your school is not using common sense, then you should stage a protest march and demand the reinstatement of a student who is busted for possessing harmless items such a Swiss Army knife, which happen to be very handy. Your protest may even attract the support of parents who are becoming increasingly frustrated by draconian zero-tolerance policies.

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