When Taylor Santos was caught letting another student copy her homework, she requested that she be administered a spanking instead of suspension, because she didn’t want to miss classes. While this may sound unusual, in Dallas, Texas, corporal punishment is still legal, and especially in the case where a student requests it. Santos was asked to call her mother to see if the substitute punishment would be OK, and her mom agreed. Problems arose, however, when the person administering the punishment turned out to be a male Vice Principal. Both Taylor and her mom had assumed that it would be a female, for obvious reasons. This was not the case, however. The Vice Principal also left marks on Taylor, which wasn’t expected. Her mom called the school to complain, but was told that this kind of thing was “normal”.
Asian countries are known to have cultures which can vary greatly from what we know here in the West. This also extends to how they handle punishments in schools – apparently, it is fairly common for teachers in Asian countries to administer harsh physical punishments. One such punishment of which there are many documented cases involves children being forced to kneel on frozen peas. This may not sound so bad until you see pictures of the marks it leaves – it must be excruciatingly painful to experience.
A controversial punishment at a high school in Mesa, Arizona landed a first-year principal in hot water. When two male students got into an argument in class, the principal gave them the option of suspension or public humiliation as punishment. When the students chose the latter, they were forced to sit next to each other and holding hands in the school’s courtyard. Many students gathered around the boys and called them names, as well as taking photos and posting them online. The photos went viral, and the principal was reprimanded by the school district.
Solitary confinement for juvenile offenders has long been criticized as too harsh a punishment, but apparently, some schools have taken to incorporating the punishment themselves. This all came to light recently when the mother of an elementary school student, named Ana Bate, found out that her son’s fellow classmates were being kept in a tiny, padded room which was locked from the outside. The school, located in Longview, Washington, calls the room a “Therapeutic Booth”. Although many formal complaints have been lodged, school districts around the country continue to use this method of punishment.
When Michael Bell, Jr., brought home a report card with bad grades, he didn’t expect to be publicly humiliated as a result. His father, however, felt that would be the best way to get through to him. He forced Michael to wear a sign which read “Hey I want to be a class clown, is it wrong?” on one side, and a message which encouraged drivers to honk if they thought he should improve his grades on the other. Michael was then forced to stand on the side of the road for several hours. Michael did say, for what it’s worth, that he has learned his lesson and will do better.
A Florida teacher may have lost her job over an especially strange punishment she imposed on a child in 2012. The teacher, named Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp, was caught using what she called the “Cone of Shame” on students who misbehaved in her class. In reality, she was forcing students to wear a dog collar cone, typically used to prevent dogs from accessing wounds while they heal. When pictures of a student wearing the cone surfaced online, Cutkomp was put on administrative leave pending a final decision on whether or not she would be fired.
In what has been called a “School to Prison Pipeline”, authorities from Jackson, Mississippi have been brought under scrutiny for excessively harsh punishments which give students a permanent record for comparatively minor infractions. For instance, reports say that students have been locked up for things like flatulence, or wearing the wrong color socks. The rules have been called racist, since they largely seem to affect black students. Authorities now say they are trying to remedy the situation.
A school board in New Jersey had to pay out a pretty hefty fine to seven students, after the school the children attended thought it wise to force the students to eat off of the floor as punishment. The incident arose when a student spilled a jug of water on the floor while trying to put it onto a water cooler. As a result, the entire class of 15 (or 16, the number is disputed) students were forced to eat off of the floor. Some of those students hadn’t even been present at the time of the incident. A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of seven of the students netted them each $31,500, for a grand total of about $500,000.
In 2012, a complaint was filed against a teacher in Idaho named Summer Larsen, for a fairly unusual form of punishment which was used on students who didn’t meet certain expectations she set for them. When this happened, other students in the class were allowed to draw on their faces as punishment. The drawings were done in permanent marker. The complaint became a national headline, and a petition was started to have Larsen fired. At the time of the incident, at least a dozen people had signed the petition.
A 5-year-old boy was locked in a small, dark closet and left there, forgotten, for at least an hour. The teacher in question not only forgot that the boy, named Tanner, was in the closet, but even left the school and went home. Tanner’s father found him in the closet after he went to search for his son, who didn’t come out as usual when school ended. He found Tanner locked in the closet, scared, and covered in his own urine. He had soiled himself out of fear. Tanner’s father was understandably outraged, saying “If someone called the police and said that there’s a dad who locked his kid in a small room with no lights and he was in there so long that he was crying and urinated his pants, I would be going to jail”. Though the school board said that they regretted the action, it’s not clear if any ramifications were placed on the teacher.
A 7 year old student named Lamya Cammon was administered an extremely drastic punishment in 2009, after her 1st-grade teacher became agitated with Lamya constantly playing with her hair. When Lamya wouldn’t stop playing with her hair after repeated requests by the teacher, she was called to the front of the class and the teacher, who was not identified, cut her braid off with a pair of scissors. Cammon’s mother confronted the teacher about the incident, and the teacher apologized. Helen, Cammon’s mother, was not satisfied by this however, and requested that the teacher be terminated. It’s not clear what action was taken against the teacher.
A behaviorally challenged 9 year old autistic boy named Christopher Baker was stuffed into a duffel bag by his school’s special care staff, and put in the hallway outside of the classroom. His mother was then called to come pick Christopher up from school, where she found him in the bag with the string pulled tight. She only found him, she says, because he called out to her as she was walking by. She demanded that the aide who was standing nearby release her son, and the aide had a hard time undoing the string. When she met with school district officials, the bag was called a “therapy bag”. Baker’s mother said that she didn’t feel the staff should be fired, but felt that a suspension and more training was in order.
A kindergarten teacher in Port St. Lucie, Florida, came under fire after apparently allowing her class to vote another student out. She let each student say what they didn’t like about the 5-year-old boy, named Alex, and then cast a vote as to whether he should be removed from the class. Melissa Barton, Alex’s mother, filed a complaint against the teacher. Although no criminal charges were filed against the teacher, a unanimous motion was passed to suspend the teacher’s right to teach for one year. An additional request had been made to remove the teacher’s tenure, but this was not carried out.
In 2010, a Lesbian student named Constance McMillen requested permission to take her girlfriend to the Itawamba County Agricultural High School Prom, as well as permission to wear a tuxedo to the event. The school refused, and told her that she would be forced to leave if she showed up with her girlfriend. Further, they suggested that she should create her own, separate “prom” to attend instead of the school’s event. McMillen’s response was to call up the ACLU, who in turn threatened to sue the school district. The school opted to cancel the entire event instead of giving in. A free speech lawsuit was indeed filed on Constance’s behalf, requesting that the school reinstate the event and allow Constance to attend. The court ruled that McMillian’s rights had been violated, and rather than force the school to reinstate the event, damages in the amount of $35,000 were paid to Constance.
In a case which went all the way to the Supreme Court, a 13 year old girl named Savana Redding was detained and strip searched after she gave another student four 400mg Ibuprofen tablets, as well as a 200mg Naproxen tablet. When the school officials could not find the “contraband” on the girl, they forced her to strip to her underwear. She was then asked to pull her bra aside and shake it out, as well as to pull out the elastic on her underwear to see what would fall out. Nothing was found on Savana, and her parents were not contacted regarding the incident. Savana’s mother sued the school district in response to the incident, and the case was taken to the Supreme Court. It was eventually found that although Savana’s rights had indeed been violated, the school staff in question were immune from punishment because the unconstitutionality of the search had not yet been established.