The idea behind zero tolerance for school violence is generally a good one.  But some states and local districts have taken their policies a little bit too far.

For example, in New York, zero tolerance has led to arrests for gun possession on campus, as well as for more minor offenses such as shoving.  Last year, New York sent thousands of students to court for offenses as minor as throwing food, talking back to teachers, and even doodling.

More than 1,400 students ended up in correctional facilities, which, according to recent federal and New York state reports, don’t help.  Nearly nine of 10 of these students commit additional crimes.

That leads me to one of my favorite ideas to help control campus crime and punish the offenders–youth courts. This gives students at each school an opportunity to hear the cases of their peers and pass judgment (that can be reviewed and approved by the administration).

From what I’ve seen, these kids can be tough on those that break the rules and interfere with the education process.  Jail time should be a last resort used only on those students who are repeat offenders or whose crimes are major.

Patrick Fiel is public safety advisor for ADT Security Services and a former executive director of school security for Washington, D.C. Public School System. He also served 22 years in the Army Military Police Corps, where his responsibilities included day-to-day security operations at the West Point Military Academy. During his time with ADT, Fiel has conducted more than 100 television, radio, newspaper, and magazine interviews as a public and school safety expert.

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