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Senator Leftwich Proposes Common Sense over Zero Tolerance

It's time for school boards to use common sense when considering how to deal with students accused of breaking rules, rather than "zero tolerance" policies that don't take individual circumstances into account. That's according to State Senator Keith Leftwich who said he would propose legislation directing school boards to do just that when handling students.

"School boards across the country have adopted zero tolerance rules to deal with serious problems like lethal weapons. But here's the problem; a child pointing a finger and saying bang is treated as if he were pointing a real gun. Common sense tells us those things are not at all the same, but under zero tolerance rules, that child could be suspended. That doesn't make sense," said Senator Leftwich, D-OKC.

Senator Leftwich said he plans to introduce legislation for the 2003 session to help make sure school boards pass rules that distinguish between various kinds of infractions. Leftwich said his proposed bill would allow school districts to consider such things as intent and circumstances, and give more precise definitions as to what a weapon is and what kind of punishments should be handed down.

"Someone bringing a switchblade knife into a classroom should be suspended. But someone who leaves a pocket knife in a car should get a lesser punishment. Someone with fingernail clippers should at most have them confiscated unless they've actually used them in a threatening way. It's just common sense," said Leftwich.

"I know that for the most part, these school districts have the best of intentions; they want to do the best job possible protecting our children from deadly weapons and abide by federal rules and recommendations. But many have said outright they need assistance interpreting exactly what it is that they're required to do by the federal government. I believe we can accomplish both of those goals and still use common sense when dealing with questionable infractions," said Leftwich.

Contact info
Senate Communications Division - (405) 521-5605