Experts and social media wonder: Has zero tolerance run amok?


Six-year-old Hunter Yelton was suspended and now has a permanent record as a result of kissing a fellow student on the hand, and now his Colorado school district has come under fire for labeling the incident as “sexual harassment.”

School officials have maintained that Yelton violated the school’s strict zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment, and stand by their decision to suspend the first grader from the Lincoln School of Science and Technology in Canon City, Colorado.

Since then, the school has begun gaining national attention, with many suggesting that the school’s reaction has been far too extreme. Education experts say the punishment was more reactionary than appropriate.

“Zero tolerance policies in schools have not been shown to work,” Nadine Block, a child psychologist, told Raw Story. “This is just another example of going overboard on rules in schools that need to be more flexible…schools should be looking for ways to teach appropriate behavior.”

For many, the prevalence of zero-tolerance policies in schools signals an attempt to configure a punishment system that will institute large-scale results, though educators are always quick to point out that these policies have not led to a decrease in incidents. So the question arises: Is it sero tolerance, with zero results?

This marks the second suspension for poor Yelton, who was previously suspended for kissing the same girl on the cheek, a girl whom he identified as his “girlfriend” to his mother.

“it cannot be a good thing for a 6-year old child to be told he has to leave school just for kidding a girl,” Feather Berkower, founder of Parenting Safe Children, a popular parenting website told Raw Story. “The school should look for a teachable moment in this, helping the kids to understand what age-appropriate sexual behavior is.”