Lawmakers Zero-In on Oklahoma's "Zero Tolerance" Laws

State representatives are focusing legislation on Oklahoma's "zero tolerance" laws.

On Jan. 7, State Representative Sally Kern introduced legislation that would make punishing students for mimicking, drawing or chewing pastries into the shape of a gun illegal.

According to a news release today, State Representative Anastasia Pittman plans on releasing legislation this spring that would also revise Oklahoma's "zero tolerance" laws.

"When 'zero tolerance' policies were first implemented in our schools in the 1980s, they had the best of intentions," Pittman said in the statement. "These laws have been studied for years now and we know that these laws have not been enacted equally.

Pittman stated in the release that the laws would be revised "in hopes of severing the institutional bullying and the school-to-prison pipeline that results for too many children of color from these policies."

"Zero tolerance" policies are not just the focus of Oklahoma lawmakers, but at a federal level as well.

The Department of Justice, in collaboration with the Department of Education released a statement on Wednesday to assist schools on developing new practices and ensuring the polices comply with federal law.

According to the DOJ, significant numbers of students have missed classes due to minor infractions leading to suspensions or expulsions.

"A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal's office, not in a police precinct," said Attorney General Eric Holder in the statement.

Holder states in the release that the guidance issued by the collaborating parties should promote fair disciplinary practices that "can keep America's young people safe and on the right path."

According to Pittman, the "zero tolerance" rules overwhelmingly affect students of color, disabled students and LGBTQ students. The statement issued by the DOJ cites the enforcement of Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color or national origins in public schools.

"Schools also must understand their civil rights obligations and avoid unfair disciplinary practices. We need to keep students in class where they can learn," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in the statement.

Pittman stated she would be willing to work with Kern to amend "zero tolerance" laws.