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Zero Tolerance: A Hard Look at American School Policies

Zero Tolerance exposes the grim reality of American school policies that criminalise normal childhood behaviour in the name of preventing another Columbine.

Keywords: Zero tolerance, American school policies, Columbine, criminalisation of childhood behaviour, education system, Sara Gibbings. Three Words: Chilling, Revealing, Thought-provoking.


The documentary "Zero Tolerance" directed by Sara Gibbings and released in 2014, delves into the controversial issue of the American school system's stringent policies. In the wake of horrific incidents like the Columbine High School massacre, the documentary explores how schools are criminalising normal childhood behaviour in a bid to prevent similar tragedies. This topic holds immense relevance in today's society, where the debate around school discipline and the criminalisation of students continues to heat up.


"Zero Tolerance" takes us on a journey across various schools in America, where kids as young as five are being arrested for regular childhood mischief, all under the guise of preventing another Columbine. However, is there a cynical, money-making agenda behind this radical approach?

More Film Analysis


The documentary employs an investigative approach, digging deep into the policies and incidents that led to a drastic change in American school discipline. The research is thorough and the exploration of the subject is in depth, shedding light on an issue often hidden in the shadows.

Historical and Factual Context

The Columbine High School massacre in 1999 was a turning point in American school policies, leading to the implementation of zero tolerance policies in many institutions across the country.

Key themes in the film

  • The intersection of education and law enforcement
  • The commodification of childhood misconduct
  • The implications of zero tolerance policies on a child's future
  • The societal pressure on schools to prevent incidents like Columbine at any cost

Film Comparisons

While "Zero Tolerance" shares similarities with documentaries like "The School in the Cloud" and "Waiting for Superman", its specific focus on the criminalisation of normal childhood behaviour sets it apart.

Noteworthy Moments

One of the most profound revelations in the documentary is the discovery of the underlying profit motive behind these stringent policies.


Despite the lack of specific review quotes available, the documentary has received a positive response with an IMDB score of 6, indicating that audiences found it informative and thought-provoking.


"Zero Tolerance" is a crucial watch for anyone seeking to understand the complex dynamics of the American education system and its far-reaching consequences. It would be particularly enlightening for educators, parents, and policy-makers.

More film information:


  • IMDB Score: 6
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: N/A
  • Metacritic Score: N/A
  • Film Festival Awards: N/A



  • Sara Gibbings: The director of the documentary.



  • Various schools across the United States

Key Questions Raised by the Film

  1. Are zero tolerance policies doing more harm than good?
  2. What are the long-term effects of such policies on students?
  3. Is the criminalisation of normal childhood behaviour justified?

I wonder what the film would be in another art form

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  1. A famous book, it would be "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding - both explore the damaging effects of societal pressure on children.
  2. A famous song, it would be "Another Brick in the Wall" by Pink Floyd - a protest against rigid schooling systems.
  3. A famous piece of art, it would be Picasso's "Guernica" - both depict a grim, unsettling reality.
  4. A famous celebrity, it would be Michael Moore - known for his critical and investigative documentaries.
  5. A colour, it would be grey - reflecting the bleak scenario it portrays.
  6. A music style, it would be punk rock - known for its rebellious and critical undertones.