There are two main questions that this study looks to answer; do zero-tolerance policies significantly reduce deviant behavior? Secondly, what are the effects on the students where zero-tolerance policies are implemented? We do not expect that zero-tolerance policies will significantly reduce deviant behaviors. Also, we expect to see negative effects on the learning environment of the school. It is only when zero-tolerance policies reduce deviant behavior and have no effect on the learning environment can they be said to be effective. All of this will be examined at the high school level.
The first variable to examine is deviant behavior. We begin by defining deviant behavior as any behavior that breaks a schools code of conduct. With zero-tolerance policies, this behavior results in an automatic suspension or expulsion with no questions asked. Observing the number of suspension/expulsions a school has over a period of time will allow us to see if deviant behavior is being reduced. Next, to examine learning environment we will look at the graduation rates and the percent of graduating students that continue their education. This can be either to a college or university, to a trade school, or joining the military. Thus, if there is a positive learning environment, there will be more graduates and more students continuing on with their education. The converse would be true for a negative learning environment.
The best way to observe all of this is to gather data directly from schools themselves. We will also interview an administrator to see if they have implemented a zero-tolerance policy and if so, what year they did so. For this study, we will only look at schools that have implemented zero-tolerance policies over the past 25 years. The reason for this is we want to keep the cultural/social norms the same and in general, society has not significantly changed over the past 25 years.