Sunday, May 3, 2009

Zero Tolerance Policies - Do They Work?

Zero Tolerance Policies - Do They Work?

In a word - NO. In a few words Zero Tolerance Policies aren't worth the paper they're written on.
Strong words - certainly but I'm basing this assessment on my 16 year experience as an elected School trustee on two separate school boards in two different Provinces, during which one school board wrote and implemented a Zero Tolerance Policy and seeing the effects of a ZTP on students & staff while serving on another board.

Zero Tolerance Policies are put in place in response to the fears and complaints of Parents and staff who want to feel protected by something - anything. The resulting policy is hastily adopted and entered into School District policy. This is akin to carving it in stone. Once implemented as policy it is immovable and unalterable - and the common phrase is heard "it is in policy - we had no option, we had to follow policy".

My most memorable experience with ZTPs came when the school board on which I serving was asked to consider an application from a suspended student to be allowed back into one of our schools. When the trustees arrived at the meeting we learned the student was a six year old Grade one student who had been suspended for six weeks.

His Crime? He had found a old, rusty penknife in the playground - so rusty the blades wouldn't open, and had chased a classmate while holding it saying "I'm going to get you". And for this he was suspended for six weeks.
He appeared at the meeting confused and scared and tearfully promised never to do it again. If indeed he even knew what he'd done that was so terrible.

After the meeting we asked the Principal why he had suspended the student, his reply was that he had no choice, the policy stated that any student who brought a weapon to school must be suspended for six weeks.

And what did the student learn from this? Probably that school is a Kafkaesk place where he could be punished for doing something - anything a terrifying adult deemed wrong and that this adult could levy heavy punishment for this error.

I am sure this policy did this student far more damage than he could have even done with the rusty penknife he found.

This rant is inspired by the recent events in Keswick, Ontario where an asian student was suspended by the Principal of the High School. His crime, after being subjected to racial epithets and being physically attacked by a "superior" white student the asian kid reacted with a punch that broke his attacker's nose.

The Principal ignored the bullying that had gone on and instead decided to punish the victim, not an unusual reaction, its all too common for the victim in bullying situations to be singled out for punishment while the bullies are sent on their way unpunished in any way.

Later the cousin of the first bully got in on the act and began threatening the Asian student, who did not react.

The following day 400 students in the High School walked out in protest of the unfair suspension of the Asian student, prompting the local police to re-open the case and investigate it as a hate crime.
Meanwhile, the well informed Principal, citing the School District's Zero Tolerance Policy, stated that the victim, the Asian student would be expelled from her High School - not only that but that he would be barred from applying to any other school in the School District.

This is a large SD in Ontario covering a large area. For this student to attend school in another School District his family would have to uproot and move to another area entirely.

So the bullying victim and his whole family is to be punished all because of the School district's Zero Tolerance Policy.

Still convinced ZTP's work?

Friday, March 27, 2009

"Dealing With the Realities of Bullying" Telecourse

Reminding you there's still time to register for Brain Power Learning Group's 5 week Telecourse on Bullying, starting April 8th., 2009. For full details and to register visit

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Check out "Austentatious"

To all our readers in London, England.

Check out the hilarious new musical "Austentatious" at the Landor Theatre until March 26th., 2009
Its getting fabulous reviews and I can personally recommend it, having seen it in New York in 2007.
Its loosely (very loosely) based on Jane Austin's Pride and Predudice but don't go expecting to find much resemblance to the book. Many liberties have been taken and the result is a great evening out.
Naturally, I'm writing this from a purely objective point of view - I would not allow a family connection to colour my remarks!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Latest Blog

Wow, what a difference a week makes. In less than seven days the new administration in Washington is paying attention to Education, its become cool to be smart and recognizing the importance of the Brain has become important.
What will the next week, the next month bring?

This week I am announcing our first Teleclass. On February 18th, please join us for a free (for ezine subscribers) one hour teleclass on Bullying. You can learn in the comfort of your own home by phoning in or by listening in on your computer (no long distance charges) from David Halstead, "The Brain Guy" the internationally known authority on Bullies & Bullying and author of the best selling book "The Bully Around the Corner: Changing Brains - Changing Behaviours".
We are firming up the details and I will be posting them asap. In the meantime contact me @ to secure a place in this class.

Just a reminder to Whitelist the address in the "From" line of the ezine. Check with your mail server if you unsure how to do this. I'm getting more and more ezines returned as "Spam" because the hypervigilant spam filters reject any emails not on their whitelist or acceptable list.
So to ensure you get every issue please do this or change your address to your home address.
Many thanks.
More next time

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Brain news ezine Blog

In this blog I'm posting more Q & A's we've received on the ezine. We've had so many we can't publish them all in the ezine, hence the Blog posting. Here's one on Brain Based Learning:-

I am looking for brain cross over activities within an academic setting.


Hi Tony.

Thanks for the request: There is an ever growing amount of literature on the topic. I have written

Putting the Brain into the Classroom: 39 Brain Facts - 231 Teaching Strategies,

The Bully Around the Corner: Changing Brains - Changing Behaviours

Peggy has a massive archival collection of previous Brain Facts on file as well there are other ar4ticles available on the website Contact Peggy at

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ezine Question Corner

We had an enormous response to the Question Corner segment of the ezine last month. So large we cannot post all of the Q & A's in the ezine. So we will be including some of them in upcoming blogs. This is the first - with questions on bullying. For Dave's answer scroll down.

Hi, David
I really appreciate the succinct information about bullying.
However, what I really need are strategies for penetrating
the lack of empathy that seems to grow in students who
get away with bullying

PS. What do you do when you work with someone in the
mental health field who is a bully? Her needs tend to get
met at the expense of everyone else, but no one seems
to recognize it as bullying.
(Subscriber in the USA)

Hi ....
You have keyed in on an essential element of bullying ie. the inability to emotionally connect, in a mutual beneficial way, with others.
Bullying to a very large degree is due to a lack of emotional wellness. A motivating force for bullying is to secure or maintain a sense of emotional survival. Students and adults alike who feel personally unworthy, unattached, frustrated by lack of success, fear of risking to succeed etc are all likely to be a bully in one form or another.
In book The Bully Around the Corner I probably spend 75% of content dealing the emotional aspects of bullying and strategies to enhance emotional change. Then in the past six months I have written a complimentary piece called the Road Map which deals with meeting with the bully and dealing with his issues on a feelings level.
The problem one encounters when dealing with dysfunctional emotional memories (leading to dysfunctional behaviours) is that change is slow
BUT it is the only way to affect change.

If you go to you will come upon the information- order page. The Canadian Dollar is about 82 cents US right now so the price is even better than it appears. Book price today is $33.58US, the Road Map is $16.35 together they are $46.65US

As to your last comment. Bullying is without doubt the most misunderstood and misinterpreted behaviour that frequents our work places, families and communities. I just had a retired University President comment about the amount of bullying that goes on between faculty and between faculty and students particularly graduate students.

I believe very strongly that the
basis of all bullying is fear. For children and adolescents the fear is that they will not attain status. For adults the fear is that they will lose status. It is sad in the brain development arena which is our education system that there people who are bullies. In the The Bully Around the Corner book there is a section on Adult Bullies in the School. I wasn't going to put this in the book but when giving seminars and workshops the participants kept raising the issue.

Adult bullies in the workplace are at best tolerated, most often feared and are, almost to a person , the most incompetent, most inflexible and most destructive people in the system. They are however not without guile and know exactly how to finesse their way into the thinking of senior administration.
If you are willing to put your ego on hold and are able to bite your tongue there are some things you can try for the benefit of your students.
* Don't pressure her.
* Create scenarios which she can accept and run with, as her ideas.
* Try not to get yourself isolated. Such bullies are good at dividing and conquering.
* Try to get her dependent upon you, such as having her take a leadership/speaker role on some thing that only you have the expertise.
* Be her friend. Say Mildred I know you are really swamped with XYZ , could I help you there or with the ABC program that is vital to the Superintendent is promoting. Means more work for you but it also may allow you to get some of the things, you need to have, done.
* You can pray for certain things to happen. A new administrator may see through her and take administrative action, her husband will get transferred, she will retire, a university will believe her resume and take her on staff. I had an senior administrator who saw through my bully boss and had him transferred.
* Don't be afraid of being creative. These are not rational folk so there fore do not spend all your time thinking rationally.

I hope this info helps. Please write or contact me again. David Halstead, MEd.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Joys of being a Grandparent.

Yesterday I called my daughter and my 2 year & three week old grandson got to the phone first.
He picked up the receiver and murmured "awoo" When I said Hi, N... he turned to his mother and yelled "Its Nanny".
The joy, wonder and delight in his voice transformed what had been a rotten day into one filled with sunshine - even though it was 7.30pm and pitch dark.