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
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