Virtue jurisprudence and the case of zero-tolerance discipline in U.S. public education policy: An ethical and humanistic critique of captivity’s laws

Document Type


Publication Date



Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

Publication Title

New Criminal Law Review


This article empirically investigates how the humanistic critique at the core of virtue jurisprudence can illuminate the laws of captivity at the level of judicial decision making. One point of reference is the set of cases that makes up the constitutional challenges to and the resolutions of zero-tolerance public school discipline. These court decisions establish the conditions under which this strategy represents a legitimate and protected exercise of U.S. education policy and practice. We begin by explaining what virtue jurisprudence is, and we specify how its Aristotelian-sourced humanism has been the basis of ongoing sociolegal inquiry. We then delineate the coordinates of our methodology. These coordinates consist of two levels of textual data collection, as obtained from a LexisNexis criterion-based sample design. Next, we summarily present the results. These findings reveal both the judicial temperaments and the normative forces that inform and influence the nature of sociolegal decision making on the matter of zero-tolerance public school discipline. We discuss and analyze the results within the critical humanism of virtue jurisprudence. This critique suggests how the courts’ endorsement of zero-tolerance public policy and practice might be reconceived if an ethic of citizenship grounded the courts’ reasoning and decision making.

Link to Published Version