Amid growing criticism from civil-rights activists and parents, some schools are reexamining their zero tolerance discipline policies—especially when it comes to everyday student problems.

Using a zero-tolerance approach is particularly difficult at places like Manual High School in Indianapolis, where many of the students come from split families, poor homes, and rough neighborhoods, school officials said.

"Nothing is ever cut and dried when you're dealing with children," said Anita Silverman,


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