What a difference the community makes: Zero tolerance policy interpretation and implementation

Christopher Dunbar, Francisco A. Villarruel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The implementation of zero tolerance policies raises important questions. In this article we explore how zero tolerance policies are interpreted, implemented, and enforced differently in urban, rural, and suburban districts, and how this results in unequal numbers of expulsions and suspensions. Using a policy analysis framework, we explored how administrators from economically and culturally distinct communities developed an understanding of zero tolerance policy. In some cases, administrators modified the policy to meet the needs and culture of their districts, while in other situations, administrators adhered to the policy as written. The varying interpretations allowed some children to remain in school for particular offenses while other children were expelled immediately for similar infractions. Our data show that this policy adversely impacts a disproportionately higher number of students color in urban school districts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-359
Number of pages9
JournalEquity and Excellence in Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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