Three cheers for Judge Michael P. McCuskey [news story, Jan. 12].

As a teacher who recently left the public school system, I applaud the judge's decision to uphold the Decatur students' expulsions.

Political figures at every level of community and government have paid a lot of lip service to improving our schools by raising content standards. However, academic achievement will not improve until student conduct issues are addressed. When enforced, zero-tolerance policies create much-needed standards for student behavior. They serve to notify students and parents of what will not be tolerated in a school setting as well as the consequences for such actions.

The zero-tolerance policy toward violence in Decatur, Ill., is an example of a community group that took a stand on violence. This policy was voted into effect by the school board prior to the September incident. Through their violent behavior, these six students became the first to challenge it.

That the students committed such acts as to require expulsion is unfortunate, that these students reflect the statistics that minority students often comprise the majority of school suspensions and expulsions is even more unfortunate, but the predetermined punishment for specific offenses must be upheld if we are to maintain control in our schools.

JANE GREER

Upper Marlboro