While zero-tolerance (ZT) school policies were created in an effort to protect students, its vague and inconsistent application has led to unfair and harsh punishments, mainly directed at minority students. To truly understand the impact these policies have on student perceptions of discrimination, student-teacher relationships, and student aspirations, the current study conducted a survey with public high school students from Ohio with zero-tolerance bullying policies (n = 41) and public high school students without zero-tolerance policies in Michigan (n=67). One way ANOVAs were used to analyze the main effects of zero-tolerance (ZT) and non-zero-tolerance (NZT) policies and factorial ANOVAs were used to determine the role student demographics played in student reporting. The study found that overall students in the zero-tolerance policy school reported weaker-student teacher relationships, lower educational aspirations, and more severe forms of discrimination than the non-zero-tolerance school; this was particularly true for minority students, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, and questioning (LGBPQ) youth, students of color, and students with current/previous IEPs. Occupational aspirations were found non-significant for both schools. Continued research into the psychological impact zero-tolerance policies have, particularly those on student perceptions, is essential to ensuring the safety and psychological wellbeing of all students.

Keywords: zero-tolerance policies, discrimination, aspirations, student-teacher relationships


Thelamour, Barbara




School Psychology


zero-tolerance policies, discrimination, aspirations, student-teacher relationships

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2016 Hunter E. Ramsay-Smith