The Zero Tolerance Generation

David Forbes investigates the real, long-term impact of zero tolerance in schools.

In 1999, Antonious Brown attended Therrell High in Southwest Atlanta, an area whose neighborhoods have long struggled with poverty and crime. He’d had a rough time. He had to wear a hearing aid and was overweight to boot, so was routinely bullied, and he wasn’t strong enough to fight back. Creative writing was his main escape. Brown had wanted to be a writer since middle school. He particularly liked crafting horror stories, “like Stephen King,” in a journal he kept. Sometimes he’d share them with those he knew.

“I wanted to write a book, for my own purposes,” Brown says. “Occasionally, I’d let people read it.”

But in March of that year, the school authorities got wind of one of his stories about an insane student who hunts down, kills, and cannibalizes classmates and teachers. Dark stuff, but hardly out-of-bounds for a horror story from a teenager.

Brown was an average student, with no record of discipline problems or any criminal run-ins with the law, but “the principal took it as a threat.”

According to Atlanta Journal- Constitution reports from the time, he was initially suspended for 20 days, but allowed back in school on the recommendation of a counselor.

His mother, Latonja Richardson, knew about his horror writing and had no issue with it. It looked like he was on his way back to school, with the incident soon to be just a bad memory. After all, that April he was only two months away from graduating.

He came back April 20. “My first day back at school, Columbine happened,” Brown says. “Parents were calling up the school, asking if the guy who wrote that story was there. They got me out of class and sent me home. Then the police came.”

Adapted from NSFWCORP Print, issue #6, published August 25, 2013.

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The Zero Tolerance Generation

David Forbes investigates the real, long-term impact of zero tolerance in schools.

A report by David Forbes

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