Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills

Seventh-grader Sierra Shepard has always been the perfect student, so when she sees that she accidentally brought her mother's lunch bag to school, including a paring knife, she immediately turns in the knife at the school office. Much to her surprise, her beloved principal places her in in-school suspension and sets a hearing for her expulsion, citing the school's ironclad no-weapons policy. While there, Sierra spends time with Luke, a boy who's known as a troublemaker, and discovers that he's not the person she assumed he would be—and that the lines between good and bad aren't as clear as she once thought.


As a school teacher myself, I found the concept of this novel very interesting. Most of the school I have worked in have “zero tolerance” policies when it comes to drugs and weapons, and I would say that for the most part, I am a supporter of these policies. However, as this novel points out so well, people and situations tend to be far more complicated. While I don’t agree the main character, Sierra, should have been punished for her honest mistake, I can see the school’s side of the story and the desire to apply the school policy equally in the name of fairness. Nevertheless, life is not black and white. There are gray areas, and I think it is in these gray areas that we learn the most about ourselves and the world around us. I think this one is a worthy edition to YA section of any library.

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