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Zero-tolerance policies in schools impact minority kids more

Throughout the years, kids of all backgrounds and ethnicity have gotten into occasional trouble at school. Some Colorado youth and parents have even dealt with issues like suspension or expulsion. Zero-tolerance laws and rules that were adopted across the nation during the past decades can turn school issues into criminal issues; students can be arrested and charged with crimes for some school misbehavior.

The federal Education and Justice departments have stated that minority students are especially impacted by zero-tolerance rules. A statement from the departments indicates they found evidence of harsher treatment of minority individuals who are in similar situations as non-minority students. Student advocates and some political leaders call the enforcement of such rules the "school-to-prison pipeline," implying kids who face harsh penalties under zero-tolerance laws are more likely to end up in prison.

For one high school freshmen, an unfortunate incident at school combined with the zero-tolerance policy means a big change in his present status -- and possibly his future. The minority teen, who is from another state, was expelled after an altercation with a teacher. Reports state the teen played tug-of-war with the teacher over a "hit list" that the teen didn't want to give up. Allegedly, the list contained names of students the teen wanted to tackle on the football field.

As of late January, the teen had been on eight months of house arrest. He also imposed self-isolation from his friends due to embarrassment. His mother reports that she is worried about his emotional state and health. She reports the only school she could get him into was a small private school that didn't have a football team.

Regardless of race or situation, when teens are faced with allegations that could lead to school expulsion and more serious criminal consequences, a strong defense is necessary. Understanding the law, personal rights and options is necessary to plan for protecting a young person's future.

Source: CNN, "Minority kids disproportionately impacted by zero-tolerance laws" Halimah Abdullah, Jan. 25, 2014

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