Understanding Tennessee’s Zero Tolerance Policies

Strong defense when you stand accused of breaking the rules in a Nashville school

For the last decade or so, the State of Tennessee has adopted a “zero tolerance” policy regarding the following offenses: possessing and/or using drugs, possessing a firearm, and the more complicated charge of battery of staff. The state also requires that bullying fall under the zero-tolerance policy. While every school district may have different disciplinary policies, these three are state mandated, making charges of them all the more serious.

At the Law Office of Perry A. Craft, PLLC in Nashville, we fight to protect students accused of breaking the zero-tolerance policy implemented in their school, as well as any other alleged disciplinary infractions. We know that the laws can be difficult to understand, even for people who work for the school district. That is why we fight on behalf of students in and around Nashville – to ensure that they continue to have educational opportunities and a chance for a brighter future.

What the law actually states

Tennessee State Law reads:

“Each local and county board of education shall file annually with the commissioner of education written policies and procedures developed and adopted by the board:

  • To ensure safe and secure learning environments free of drugs, drug paraphernalia, violence and dangerous weapons; and
  • To impose swift, certain and severe disciplinary sanctions on any student:
    • Who brings a drug, drug paraphernalia or a dangerous weapon onto a school bus, onto school property or to any school event or activity; or
    • Who, while on a school bus, on school property or while attending any school event or activity:
      • Is under the influence of a drug;
      • Possesses a drug, drug paraphernalia or dangerous weapon; or
      • Assaults or threatens to assault a teacher, student or other person.

At the beginning of fall classes each school year, each local and county board of education shall provide students and their parents with written notification of the policies and procedures. Additionally, each school shall conspicuously post a summary of the policies and procedures within each school.”

Furthermore, “each school district shall adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, bullying or cyber-bullying.” The schools must publicize this policy, and must indicate that this policy is in strict enforcement during school-sponsored activities.

The problem with the law when it comes to battery charges

In cases of drug or firearm possession, the law is generally the same wherever you go in Tennessee. Battery of staff, however, is a rather vague term.

To begin with, schools in Tennessee may have leeway when it comes to battery charges. One district may claim the act of threatening a fellow student is battery, while another might only adopt the policy if someone is hurt in a physical altercation. According to the Offices of Research and Education Accountability, “victims determine whether or not to report incidents to school officials, who then determine whether an incident constitutes battery of staff.” If no staff member is in the area to see the “attack” or hear the alleged threat, there is no way to determine whether the battery actually took place without relying solely on witnesses who may or may not be reliable. Thus, a child could be disciplined for a battery charge:

  1. Which never occurred, or
  2. Which falls within the guidelines of battery in one school district but not another, or
  3. May have been an act of self-defense in the face of provocation by another student.

Being disciplined for breaking the zero-tolerance policy can have long-lasting effects on your child, so it is imperative that you see the help of a skilled Nashville education law and criminal defense attorney like Perry A. Craft immediately.

Trust Nashville’s Perry A. Craft to protect your child’s future

Tennessee takes its zero tolerance policies very seriously – and so do colleges. Without help, your child could face an uphill battle to obtain an education. To speak with an experienced Nashville education lawyer about your case, please call the Law Office of Perry A. Craft, PLLC at 615-953-3808 or fill out our convenient contact form.