Dignity Denied: The Effect of "Zero Tolerance" Policies on Students' Human Rights

Document Date: November 17, 2008
Affiliate: ACLU of Connecticut

This report examines how the involvement of the criminal justice system in school discipline policies and practices causes deprivations of human rights for children in four key areas: the right to be free from discrimination, the right to education, the right to proportionality in punishment, and the right to freedom of expression. Analyzing school policies and practices as well as the criminal justice system, this report identifies specific areas where state, federal, and international law obligates the state to take affirmative measures to protect children’s human rights in the context of school discipline. Drawing on a case study of the New Haven, Connecticut, public school system, this report describes the effects of the school-to-prison-pipeline—the process whereby discipline policies channel students out of school and into the criminal justice system—and provides recommendations for improving policies and practices in order to ensure that students enjoy a safe and high-quality education without sacrificing their human rights.

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