A teacher in Pasco County, Florida, is in hot water for punishing her students... by making them wear a cone-shaped dog collar. Parents saw pictures on Facebook showing 9th graders at Zephyrhills High wearing the collar, and complained. Now schools superintendent Heather Fiorentino has recommended that the physical science teacher, Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp, be fired. Is that a fitting end to this strange story of discipline gone wrong? Here's what you need to know:
What was this teacher thinking?
Bailey-Cutkomp worked in the veterinary field before starting her teaching job, so she had one of the collars at home — they're normally used to keep a dog from licking a wound after surgery. While showing her students the Pixar movie Up, in which a disobedient dog named Dug is made to wear the "cone of shame," Bailey-Cutkomp reportedly got the idea to make misbehaving students wear one, too.
How did the punishment work?
Over two days in April, Bailey-Cutkomp gave her 9th graders the option of sitting at their normal "tardy table" or wearing the "cone of shame" as punishment for being late to class. She also used it for other minor infractions — one student said he wore the cone after Bailey-Cutkomp caught him drinking a soda during her class. In all, at least eight students received the punishment. The teacher abruptly stopped after students posted pictures on Facebook showing classmates wearing the cone, and a parent commented that it was inappropriate. School administrators ultimately pulled Bailey-Cutkomp from her classroom.
What happens next?
That remains to be seen. While parents complained that the "cone of shame" was humiliating for students and schools superintendent Heather Fiorentino has recommended that the teacher be dismissed, some of Bailey-Cutkomp's 9th graders said the idea was funny. "She's a cool teacher," said Tanisha Medina, one of the students pictured wearing the cone. Several fellow teachers wrote letters of support, saying that using the "cone of shame" may have been unwise but that Bailey-Cutkomp is a good teacher. The school board has not set a date to decide on her fate.
Was what she did really so bad?
Um, yes, says Jeanne Sager at The Stir. Strict discipline is one thing, but Bailey-Cutkomp quite literally treated her students like animals by forcing them to wear these "Elizabethan dog collars." She deserves to lose her job, because "teachers like her put a pall on the whole profession." No teacher should intentionally "publicly humiliate a student, ever," says Danielle Sullivan at Babble, but it's a pretty safe bet that this did no lasting damage to Bailey-Cutkomp's students. "The kids are teenagers, not kindergartners."