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El Pasoans divided over zero-tolerance policies in schools

By: Ruben Veloz

EL PASO, Texas--The president's administration is calling for all public schools to drop their zero tolerance policies.

The U.S. Department of Education finds the policies are discriminatory, but some fear taking them down could cause students to get away with trouble.

El Paso ISD is one of many schools in the nation that adopted zero tolerance policies in the mid-90s.

The policy is aimed at reducing school violence, but the U.S. Department of Education believes it's doing more damage to students.

"If they want to be bad they are still going to be bad no matter what," said El Paso High School graduate Miguel Angel Rivera.

Rivera isn't so sure taking away zero tolerance policies in schools will help kids stay out of trouble.

Students who violate the policies are often expelled or even end up with a criminal record for committing offenses like smoking, ditching school, or carrying a weapon.

"People just get away with pretty much (anything) if they have money, and like I said, it's how they are raised," said Rivera.

The debate was sparked after a study council of state governments found zero-tolerance policies to be racist.

The study was conducted in Texas and surveyed 1 million students.

It found black students were 31 percent more likely to be disciplined or expelled, and more than half of students involved in school related arrests were Hispanic or African-American.

"There are repercussions with school discipline but law enforcement can no longer become involved," said El Paso ISD Police Chief Victor Araiza.

Araiza told KFOX14 Texas law enforcement can no longer cite or arrest students for committing class-c offenses because of Texas legislation that was passed.

"Those class-c offenses are typically the lower-end offenses, for instance the use of profanity in a public place. Fighting with another person in a public place, certain types of drug paraphernalia like the use of a pipe," said Araiza.

Although the Obama administration is only urging school districts to drop their policies, Araiza believes more research should be done.

"The legislation needs to be given more thought, and maybe age range parameters would be more appropriate than just something that's blanket(ed) across the nation or across the state," said Araiza.

Every school district has different policies on disciplinary action.

KFOX14 reached out to the three major school districts in El Paso.

Socorro ISD tells KFOX14 the district got rid of their zero tolerance five years ago.

Ysleta ISD has yet to answer our requests about the district's policy.



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