Zero tolerance. It's a term thrown around in schools ever since that horrific shooting rampage occurred at Columbine High School in 1999. Schools began taking a zero tolerance policy on weapons — no guns, no knives, no camping tools, no water pistols and so forth. Since then, the term has become popular for other wars that school administrators must battle. Many schools have zero tolerance policies in place for drugs, violence and bullying. But one Florida school is taking some heat for a zero tolerance policy that landed two well-meaning students in trouble — for hugging.


Two middle school students at Southwest Middle School in Brevard County, Fla., received a day long, in-school suspension last week after the principal saw them hugging. All they were doing was hugging. Even the principal at Southwest admitted that the hug between the boy and girl — who say they are best friends — seemed innocent. But zero tolerance means that there is no room to differentiate between innocent and not-so-innocent forms of touching in the school. So these teenagers now have suspensions on their records.


The idea behind zero tolerance policies is to give school staff and administrators clear and unambiguous guidelines about what is acceptable in schools. But in doing so, the policy takes away the staff's ability to use common sense in situations in which punishment is not warranted. After all, in this day and age when kids have so much to worry about — the crumbling economy, the overheating planet, bullying, drugs, abuse scandals and so on — do we really need to teach them that offering a hug to a friend in need is wrong?


What do you think about zero tolerance policies in schools?

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