Zero tolerance for alcohol crimes leads to serious punishment

Zero tolerance for alcohol crimes leads to serious punishment

Among American high school students, drinking alcohol is a relatively common crime. Many students experiment with alcohol at least once during their high school days. Although it’s dangerous and illegal, there’s no denying that the crime occurs fairly frequently.

As a reaction to this, many schools have enacted “zero tolerance” policies for underage drinking. These policies mandate that the school enact swift and immediate punishments against students who are found in a situation that involves drugs or alcohol. Such policies began with the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 and quickly spread to include other illegal substances and activities.

These punishments are enacted regardless of the student’s disciplinary history or the circumstances in which he or she was found. This has led to a number of high-profile cases in which students were given harsh punishments for seemingly innocuous actions.

Take, for instance, a high school volleyball player who was recently suspended for five games after she was discovered at the scene of a drinking party. The girl, an honor student and captain of the volleyball team, received a late night text from a friend asking for a ride home. The friend said she was too drunk to drive herself.

The volleyball player drove to the party, where police officers were already on the scene. The girl was questioned by police officers, who then concluded that she had no involvement with the underage drinking or with underage possession of alcohol.

Her school, however, suspended her for five games, a result of their zero tolerance policies.

Similar stories have played out across the country. Here in Maryland, for example, a 7-year-old boy received two days’ suspension after his teacher saw him molding his pastry snack and thought he was trying to make it into the shape of a gun. He was actually making it into the shape of a mountain.

Though the volleyball player escaped criminal charges, many students are not so lucky. Often, those who run afoul of zero tolerance policies are also subjected to criminal charges – a minor in possession of alcohol, for example. In these cases, the charges leveled against the teenager will be misdemeanors, which will appear on the minor’s criminal record. This can have lifelong consequences for anyone convicted of such charges. Criminal defense attorneys can offer advice while protecting a defendant’s rights in similar cases.

Source: The Eastern Echo, “Zero tolerance policies make zero sense” Anthony Alaniz, Oct. 20, 2013

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