The Zero Tolerance Policy: Does It Stop Bullying?

Bullying is an age-old problem that many kids have had to face at school. With the integration of electronics and social media into the lives of most children and teens today, cyber-bullying has become yet another method used by the pushy and aggressive to taunt their peers.

According to, 70.6 percent of students surveyed admitted to witnessing bullying at their school. These kinds of attacks on fellow classmates, which usually manifest in the form of social and verbal bullying, can cause lasting damage to the victims.

Most notably, there have been a series of well-publicized bullying-related suicides among teens in recent years. According to ABC News, nearly 160,000 students nationwide stay home from school every day to avoid being bullied. And, according to, victims of bullying consider suicide at a rate that is two to nine times higher than those who haven't experienced bullying.

A possible correlation between bullying and school shootings has been debated heavily since the 1999 Columbine High School Massacre and subsequent tragedies.

In an effort to stop the increasing occurrences of all types of bullying, many schools in the U.S. have adopted a Zero Tolerance Policy, which involves school administration (working together with parents) to take a more proactive role in stopping bullying. The question many are now asking is: will a zero tolerance policy on bullying actually prevent bullying? To answer this question, let's explore the advantages and disadvantages of a policy like this for further clarity on the subject.

Advantages of a Zero Tolerance Policy on Bullying

  • Reformed bullies who were interviewed for a 2010 news story on the zero tolerance policy supported it, noting that it probably would have stopped them from bullying in the first place

  • Some schools have reported a significant drop in expulsion rates since adopting a zero tolerance bullying policy

  • Victims of bullying tend to feel more comfortable in school knowing that their aggressors will be punished immediately

Disadvantages of a Zero Tolerance Policy on Bullying

  • In some instances a zero tolerance policy on bullying might also punish the victim who is only acting in self-defense

  • According to researchers, there is no correlation between zero tolerance policies on bullying and a lower incidence of bullying--some study results have shown a connection between zero tolerance policies on bullying and increased harassment and aggression

  • Zero tolerance policies are criticized for doing little, if anything, to encourage compassion among students because punishment by itself does not address the core issues that cause bullies to pick on others

  • According to the American Psychological Association, more severe consequences in school have led to an increase in juvenile justice system referrals for problems that were once addressed and resolved in school