Zero tolerance policies have been adopted in a lot of places to combat problems with violence, drugs, or bullying. It’s a pretty black-and-white stance, though it’s been successful in plenty of cases. But what about when it falls into the grey area?
Zero Tolerance, by Claudia Mills
Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, ISBN: 978 0 374 33312 6
Sierra is a super good kid. Not just good, but a goody-goody, a student leader, and favourite of all teachers and the principal, a responsible kid. Certainly not one that would ever land in detention, never mind be expelled. But one day, when she grabs her mom’s lunch bag by mistake, this is exactly what she finds herself facing. You see, Sierra’s mom had a paring knife in her bag with her apple, and Sierra’s school has a zero tolerance policy on weapons. Sierra, responsible girl that she is, takes the knife immediately to the office and tells them what happened, thinking this will clear the whole thing up. It was a mistake, after all, and she set about fixing it right away. Surely good sense will prevail?
It might have, had the principal not backed himself into a corner, and had Sierra’s father not been a tough-as-nails top lawyer, and the two squared off. This leaves Sierra to wait anxiously in detention, where she learns a little something about her friends and about who those “bad kids” in detention really are.
It’s an interesting exploration of the problems with hard lines and with perceptions we hold about people, and about how people react when pushed. This is written not too far about an easy chapter level, a grade 4 could probably handle it easily, and the discussion is not inappropriate even for that age, so it could make for a pretty interesting one to read together and discuss, either as a parent and child or as a group discussion topic. I could see this one working for fans of Andrew Clements, too.