This post is inspired by some recent excellent blogging by Jarlath O’Brien, Dr. Linda Graham and Greg Ashman. All three write much more fluently and purposefully than I do, nonetheless the issue of so-called ‘no excuses’ or ‘zero tolerance’ policies have been raised frequently lately and to me a it’s a very confusing area. Primarily because I tend to agree with Jarlath in that there is no such thing as ‘no excuses’ or ‘zero tolerance’ approaches in the schools that claim them. Let’s bounce, no excuses, bounce damn you!

“Gerald is your homework on my desk, it’s Monday?”

“No miss, I was pushed over on the road and my bag stolen. Mum and I have made a report at the police station, and then we went to the doctor, that’s why I’m a bit late. Did you get mum’s text?”

“I did Gerald, but that’s a detention for not handing in your home work, and another detention for being late. No Excuses!”


“You are aware that bandage on your arm is not part of our uniform?”

“Miss please, I have stiches under the bandage, I was cut quite badly when I fell!”

“Nonetheless, Gerald that’s a third breach which of course means a mandatory two day suspension young man.”

“Yes of course miss, I just thought under the circumstances we might…..”

“Make an exception? NO EXCUSES! Now go straight to the office please”.

“Right class, lets proceed”.

“Woop woop woop”.

“Sara, calling out in class is unacceptable, detention!”

“Miss, you know Sara has Tourette’s”.

“You can join her Wyatt!”


Now as odd as this may sound, in this classroom the teacher is employing the ‘no excuses’ policy admirably. The point to be made is that ‘no excuses’ policies don’t really exist. What we really mean when we say that is that it’s a “some excuses’ policy. It may be a way of projecting that extremely high standards of behavior are expected, but it’s a furphy. If there are in fact schools that literally employ ‘no excuses’ policies, then they deserve to be ridiculed. If you ever find one, give me a yell.




  1. I’m unconvinced that mocking them with unrealistic scenarios is very persuasive.

    Now as odd as this may sound, in this classroom the teacher is employing the ‘no excuses’ policy admirably.

    No, that’s not admirable. And not realistic.


    1. The intent was not to mock but to simply point out that ‘No excuses’ is not realistic either. Obviously there are many instances where authentic excuses are perfectly acceptable. I tend to think as I wrote, that it’s a way of suggesting strong expectations for behavior, something that I don’t have a problem with. No excuses doesn’t mean NO excuses does it? Its just not a realistic description of the policy. Thanks for the comment.


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