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April 24, 2018

Note: Justice Talking's grant funding expired in 2008 and the project has been closed. This website is an archive of the entire run of Justice Talking shows through June 30, 2008.
It is no longer being maintained. We apologize for any stale or broken links.
Featured Program

Zero Tolerance or Zero Sense
Last Featured: 1/1/1999

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Note: Justice Talking ceased production on June 30 of 2008. Link information on this site is not maintained and is provided for historical interest only. Although correct when posted, The Annenberg Public Policy Center makes no claim as the the accuracy or continued availability of any third party web links found on this site.

Six years ago, in an effort to convey a sense of urgency to the problem of guns and violence in schools, Congress passed the Gun Free Schools Act. The law called for a national crackdown on kids with guns but it quickly became a much broader effort in schools to deal with discipline problems, vandalism, assaults, drugs, sexual harassment, even cheating. School boards call it zero tolerance. Critics call it a deeply flawed policy. In the wake of the Columbine High School shooting, school administrators are enforcing zero tolerance policies that often result in school suspensions or expulsions for minor infractions of the rules. What rights do students have in these circumstances? Should school districts be required to provide alternative educational opportunities for unruly kids? What safeguards are necessary to ensure that the punishment actually meets the crime?

John Whitehead is the founder and president of the Rutherford Institute, a non-profit civil liberties organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia. An attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights, Whitehead is the author of numerous books including his autobiography entitled Slaying Dragons and Truth Under Fire, a challenge to Christians to become involved with popular culture. Most recently, he gained notoriety as co-counsel for Paula Jones in her sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton.

John Mitchell is a deputy director of the Educational Issues Department of the American Federation of Teachers. In this position, he develops the union's materials and programs on school discipline and classroom management. Prior to coming to the national office, Mr. Mitchell served for 10 years as president of the New Mexico Federation of Teachers. From 1986 until 1995, Mr. Mitchell taught math and science in the Albuquerque public schools.

Closing Quote
"There are few areas of the law in black and white. The greys are dominant and, even among them, the shades are innumerable. For the eternal problem of the law is one of making accomodations between conflicting interests. This is why most legal problems end as questions of degree"

— Justice Douglas from the majority opinion in Eston vs Eston

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Special Announcements
Justice Talking’s last broadcast & podcast was June 30, 2008.

ATTENTION TEACHERS: Additional materials supporting use of this program in the classroom are available: ClickHere
The Rutherford Institute
Rainbow/PUSH Coalition
American Civil Liberties Union
Applied Research Center
Illinois State Board of Education
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
Making Schools Safe
ABA Votes to Oppose Zero Tolerance Policies
Three Strikes and You`re Out : Vengeance As Public Policy
by David Shichor (Editor), and Dale K. Sechrest
Zero Tolerance or Community Tolerance?: Managing Crime in High Crime Areas
by Sandra Walklate, and Karen Evans
College Admissions
No Child Left Behind
School Violence