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Pediatricians Say No to Expulsions, Suspensions at Schools
Date:2/25/2013

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Suspending or expelling a child from school should be a rare last resort and not a routine punishment for bullying, drug use or other infractions, according to a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The AAP, a leading group of pediatricians, said school "zero-tolerance" policies toward kids' behavior problems do no good.

If the parents are at work when a child is out of school, more inappropriate behavior often occurs, the authors said in the statement, which was published online Feb. 25 in the journal Pediatrics. Students who are suspended or expelled are more likely to never get a high school diploma, end up in the juvenile justice system or eventually land a low-paying job or no job at all.

"There's a tremendous price to pay not just for the kid involved, but for society," said Dr. Jeffrey Lamont, a pediatrician at Marshfield Clinic in Weston, Wis., who wrote the new AAP statement.

But if zero-tolerance policies keep troublemakers out of school, don't the "good" kids benefit? That's not what the research shows, Lamont said.

What's more, Lamont said, the policies are not only targeting kids who are a danger to their peers but also students with a wide range of behavior issues.

U.S. schools started turning to the zero-tolerance approach in the 1980s, as a way to curb drug use and violence. The idea got a boost in the 1990s with the passage of the Gun-Free School Zone Act, which required schools to expel students caught with firearms on school grounds.

"The problem was that schools adopted zero-tolerance policies that extended to lesser offenses, like disrespecting a teacher," Lamont said.

In 2006, a task force set up by the American Psychological Association found after a decade of research that there was no evidence that zero-tolerance policies had made schools any safer or
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