Review

Zero Tolerance

by Claudia Mills

Rules are necessary for societies and schools. Longwood Middle School has a Zero Tolerance Policy when it comes to bringing drugs and weapons in the school. No Drugs. No Weapons. No exceptions.

Sounds like a good rule, doesn’t it? It was certainly implemented with the best of intentions. But what happens when an honor student, someone who has NEVER been in trouble at school, accidentally brings a paring knife to school after a mix-up with her mother’s lunch bag?

"Author Claudia Mills brings a lot of issues to light that needs to be considered in a case like this...The story is well-written, fast-paced and timely in light of society’s current penchant for Zero Tolerance policies on various issues."

Seventh-grader Sierra Shephard discovers the knife a few moments after she realizes she mistakenly brought her mother’s lunch to school instead of her own. Her mother’s lunch bag contained an apple, along with the knife with which to cut it. Sierra is shocked to see the knife. She is afraid she will get in trouble for having a knife at school. Never mind that knife isn’t hers. Never mind she didn’t know it was in the lunch bag. Never mind she knew nothing about it. Zero Tolerance means Zero Tolerance. Period. No exceptions.

Trying to do the right thing, she turns the knife over to the lunch lady, who promptly escorts her to the office, where she must explain to the school secretary and the school principal what happened. She thinks because she turned the knife in as soon as she discovered it, she shouldn’t get in trouble. Sounds like a reasonable assumption, doesn’t it?

But when an iron-clad-no-excuses-no-exceptions-zero-tolerance rule collides with an honest mistake, common sense goes out the window, and Sierra is suddenly put in in-school suspension with the very real possibility of expulsion.

Another kid from her class, Luke, a known trouble-maker, ends up in suspension with her. She develops an attraction to him when she discovers there’s more to Luke than his preceding reputation. She also starts to question what’s right and what’s wrong when she ends up in so much trouble over a seemingly minor misunderstanding.

Author Claudia Mills brings a lot of issues to light that needs to be considered in a case like this: Is it right to have a Zero Tolerance policy that doesn’t exempt anybody, ever? Is it right to punish an innocent person who was trying to do the right thing? Should public opinion be ignored when cases like this are decided?

The story is well-written, fast-paced and timely in light of society’s current penchant for Zero Tolerance policies on various issues. I would make this book recommended reading for all middle school students, teachers, administrators and parents.

 

 

 

 

 

Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on June 7, 2013

Zero Tolerance
by Claudia Mills

  • Publication Date: June 18, 2013
  • Genres: Youth Fiction
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
  • ISBN-10: 0374333122
  • ISBN-13: 9780374333126