The beauty of zero tolerance, as it relates to compliance, is that it's entirely enforceable, and deals more with enforcing action by the parents before the start of school, than student behavior on a daily basis during the school year. In essence, a zero tolerance health form compliance policy mandates that all required health information be submitted prior to the start of school, and in the event that anything is missing, the student is denied entry to school, athletics, or any school-related trip. That's right, a true zero tolerance approach demands 100% compliance!
We work with many schools who are hesitant to take a firm stance with parents, but here's the reality - the health information schools require on their students can be critical, life-saving information. Allergies, medications, chronic health conditions, emergency contacts - all of this information is needed when a student health crisis arises.
This is all well and good, in theory. But how does it shake out in real life? How do you implement a stringent zero tolerance policy? In our experience, it comes down to three big steps.
1. Get top down administration buy-in.
If zero tolerance is to be a reality, the policy must have the support of the entire administration team. Once you have administrative buy-in, get the whole school on the same page. This should be much easier with the support of the administrators. If they make it clear to the rest of the school that compliance is essential and are unwavering in that goal, the rest of the school will follow suit. Once the entire school is on the same page, a united front must be evident to parents and students. If there is any wiggle room at all, parents and students will find it, and take advantage of it. In order for zero tolerance to work, the united front must be absolute and absolutely clear.
2. Prepare a strategy for implementation.
You should take into account necessary behavioral changes to enforce compliance. As already established, the first behavioral change is to agree across the board that zero tolerance is the only way. So when a parent calls the day before school, or shows up the day school starts, without the necessary paperwork, you cannot waiver - the student must be turned away until the required information is on file.
Rolling zero tolerance out to parents will require a pre-planned, deliberate schedule. We’re confident that every single school we work with can roll zero tolerance out - and enforce it - in the first year. However, some schools are somewhat hesitant to be so forceful with parents, especially when enrollment numbers are always at the forefront. But, when it comes to enforcing compliance, that shouldn’t be a factor because zero tolerance is about the child’s well-being. A parent is extremely unlikely to decide not to enroll their child at your school because you have a policy in place to ensure their child’s health and safety.
Put your strategy in action. Leading up to the start of school, you’ll be in contact with parents who have not completed the required information, so you’ll continually remind them of the repercussions if they do not take proper action. Be prepared for parents who will not have submitted their child’s information yet. Even though you’ve been in touch with them throughout the summer, they may still seem surprised if you deny their child entry to school because they’ve not submitted the proper paperwork.
To combat last minute issues, have computers or kiosks available, if possible, so parents can complete the required information on site. If this approach, or another last ditch effort (physicians faxing information on the day of, or last minute trips to the doctor), don’t resolve the issue, then you should deny the student entry to the school, classes, and sports. We’ve seen in practice, if this strong stance is taken, the parents absolutely will get you the information needed.
There are no exceptions to a true zero tolerance policy.
We've built several zero tolerance tools for school use, including these 3 Keys to Obtaining Health Form Compliance. Check these out for a brief look into Zero Tolerance, or skip right to the good stuff and download our Zero Tolerance Policy Toolkit. This toolkit will walk you through all the reasoning behind the policy, as well as parent communications and schedules to implement and enforce it. With these tools in hand, I think you'll find that a zero tolerance policy really can be your friend.