Orlando lawmaker wants changes to school zero tolerance laws - FOX 35 News Orlando

Orlando lawmaker wants changes to school zero tolerance laws

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Are zero tolerance policies at Florida's schools too strict?  A state senator from Orlando is calling on school districts to come up with ways to punish students without throwing them in jail.

State Senator Geraldine Thompson says "Little Johnny" should not have a criminal record at age ten for throwing a temper tantrum or an object in the classroom.  

The sign at an Orlando school says it's a zero tolerance zone.   Another sign warns no guns or other weapons are allowed on campus in an effort to protect students.

State Senator Geraldine Thompson is a Democrat from Orlando.  She says, "You have youngsters who have temper tantrums and end up being hand cuffed and arrested."

Senator Thompson is sponsoring Senate Bill 1244.  It would challenge school districts to punish students in ways they would not have to go to jail or get expelled when they act up on campus.  Thompson says, "Districts can look at alternative schools and suspensions- things other than the criminal justice system as ways to address this kind of issue."

Thompson wants to be clear her bill would not water down Florida's penalties for students who bring knives or guns to school or who try to hurt others on campus.

She say, "If you come to school and you are intent on harming another student or a teacher, you have a weapon, without a doubt you should be arrested you should go to jail."

Senator Thompson claims there are too many cases where zero tolerance laws are being used to throw minority students out of school or in jail.  The senator says, "It is not being enforced evenly. You do have more severe penalties more arrests of children from ethnic backgrounds."

Another zero tolerance law in Florida's House of Representatives would prevent children from being disciplined for simulating guns while playing or for wearing clothes that depict guns.  That bill is backed by the National Rifle Association.



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