Zero Tolerance bill clears Senate, waiting for governor’s pen

Last semester, Eli Mohone found himself kicked out of his Morgan County school, depressed and labeled dangerous after accidentally bringing a fishing knife – which he reported to authorities – to school.

Now, he is the namesake of a new Georgia law.

The House voted 156-0 to pass SB 299, a bill authored by Sen. Emanuel Jones that changes the state’s policy on “Zero Tolerance” discipline in schools. Jones has dubbed the bill the Eli Mohone Act. It passed the Senate earlier in the session 47-0. The senate, on Thursday, agreed to the House substitute 49-0.

“I am ecstatic about it. It has been a long-hard fight,” Jones said. “This is a tremendous accomplishment for all the kids of Georgia who were subject to harsh zero tolerance rules.”

Jones’ bill gives principals and school systems more discretion in how they handle disciplinary cases in their schools. Jones said the previous use of zero tolerance criminalized students for minor, accidental, or sometimes insignificant offenses.

The bill would ban the charging of a student as a designated felon unless he used a weapon in an assault or brought a gun to school, and it would give judges more discretion in how they handle cases.

Jones drafted what he called his signature legislation after he heard about Mohone’s story. Although Mohone turned himself in for accidentally bringing a fishing knife to school, he was arrested and sent to a youth detention center. He was kicked out of school and had to spend the rest of the semester in an alternative school.

3 comments Add your comment

publish the state budget

April 30th, 2010
11:10 am

step in the right direction here. Especially ths part “The bill would ban the charging of a student as a designated felon unless he used a weapon in an assault or brought a gun to school” I hope there’s more in there that prevents kids from even being punished for something like having a fishing knife. Frankly the kid shouldn’t have needed to a) turn it in or even b) serve detention.

Ingemar

May 5th, 2010
10:04 am

Although this is a step in the right direction it doesn’t challenge the more fundamental problem of the legal system is doing to turn our children into felons. That is the more fundamental problem.

Once labeled a felon, the child is practically condemned to a life of poverty and perhaps criminality due to the restrictions the felon label put on the remainder of his life.

Restricted from receiving federal education loans, welfare, public housing, food stamps, voting, many professional licenses.

We need to re-examine the purpose of the system, not cheerlead for band-aid legislation. Is it our mission to make Georgia safer or is it to mete out life punishment for teenage crimes?

ugaprof

May 7th, 2010
11:25 am

A step in the right direction, because “zero tolerance” teaches students to live under fascism. In a civilized society, *anyone* accused of wrongdoing has a right to a hearing, and can only be punished if the wrongdoing is found to have been intentional. How long until high-school students have this basic human right?