A new state law is ending most zero-tolerance policies in Illinois schools, but zero tolerance was on its way out the door long before lawmakers acted.


Zero-tolerance policies treated all infractions the same, but they quickly proved absurd. Students couldn't have aspirin or nail clippers. School leaders couldn't handle discipline on a case-by-case basis.


Mike Chamness, spokesman for the Illinois Association of School Administrators, said local schools started phasing out zero-tolerance policies years ago.


"Even before the law took effect, more and more schools were moving away from zero-tolerance policies," Chamness said. "The goal is to keep students in school if at all possible."


The new law requires that students get plenty of second chances and prohibits out-of-school suspensions or expulsions for all but the most serious infractions.


"This conversation has taken place over the past couple of years," Chamness said. "Many of the districts in the State of Illinois had already moved away from zero-tolerance policies."


Chamness said schools can still remove students for “continuing disruptions.” Local districts wanted that provision.

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