The evolution of zero tolerance policies: a case study of four high schools in the Silicon Valley

This qualitative study examines the implementation of Assembly Bill 1729 in four high schools in the Silicon Valley. The study assesses the impact of this bill in reducing the suspension disparity amongst African American and Latino students in the four high schools. The study was guided by the following four research questions: Is there a pattern of disparity between high schools regarding the impact of AB1729 on student suspensions, expulsions, and academic performance? What are former adult high student’s perceptions of their high school experience with school discipline? What are high school teachers’ perceptions regarding the impact of AB1729 on their classroom experiences with student discipline and school safety? What are school site administrators’ perceptions of AB1729 and the impact on their leadership practices on student discipline and maintaining a safe school? The researcher used Critical Race Theory, General Systems Theory and Multiple Ethical Paradigm as the main theoretical frameworks in examining the study. The three theories were used through out the study, as there were three participant sample groups, which involved former high school students, teachers and school site administrators. Due to the findings of the participant interviews the data was framed into mediating themes and meta themes, this further provided a chain of evidence that formed a model of six frames under the concepts, of Culture and Pedagogy. Marron’s Circularity of Culture Interdependency Model was framed as a codependent framework that is necessary in order for schools to be effective. The study revealed through Critical Race Theory that attitudinal, ideological, individual and institutional racism hinder our schools and educators. As the study exposed that African American and Latino students are still disproportionally suspended more then other student groups. Special education students are still blatantly suspended in schools. Moreover, the study revealed that Title-one schools suspend more students then non-Title 1 schools. This outcome reaffirms that schools continue to discipline students who need the most assistance. The researcher concludes with making recommendations. For example, professional development and education in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, where teachers and school site administrators need to cultivate a culturally diverse knowledge of the students and community they serve. In addition, schools need to implement and practice culturally relevant instructional and curriculum. School site leaders and teachers need to practice data driven decision making when addressing issues. School site leaders and teachers need to practice strategic planning in order to understand data more profoundly in addressing student and school concerns.