In Tarboro, North Carolina, a 5th grade teacher punished a student for calling her “ma’am” in class. Parents of the child, an African-American boy, brought the incident to the administrators of the North East Carolina Preparatory School after he brought home for their signatures a sheet on which he had been required to write “ma’am” nearly two- hundred times. The parents said their children were taught to refer to elders as “ma’am” and “sir,” and that their son was obviously not intending to be disrespectful. Upon their request, he was removed from the class to that of another teacher. The school has refused to comment further on the incident, other than saying in a statement, “This is a personnel matter which has been handled appropriately by the K-7 principal.”
That’s not correct. This is an education profession issue that should be addressed by the profession as well as the school. And moving the student, who did nothing wrong whatsoever, sends the wrong message. The school and the teacher should have apologized to the student as well as his parents, and disciplinary action ought to have been taken against the teacher. Moreover, other parents have a right to know who this teacher is, and have the opportunity to have their children removed from her oversight. If that makes it impossible for her to continue teaching, since any responsible parents would insist on her being kept as far away from children as possible, then she might have to forfeit her job.
One purpose of professional ethics codes is that they prime the ethics alarms by putting core ethical principles related to the profession into black and white. Here’s one that might have saved the boy from his undeserved ordeal:
No students should be subjected to punishment without understanding what they are being punished for, and why. The punishment should be proportionate to the offense, which should be substantial enough to warrant more than a verbal warning or admonishment. Continue reading →
Rick Jones, known to his web fans as Curmie (short for Curmudgeon), has had a busy year in his day job as a tender of young college-age minds, and his excellent blog was not as active as years past. Just in time for his annual awards for the worst transgressions in the field of education, however, he has returned with a vengeance, exploring at length and with his usual superb ethical instincts several incidents I have not had time to tackle here. Among them…
…and more, including his take, nicely complimenting mine, on Robert Reich’s complaints about how rich people and others choose their charities.
Rick, in one of his posts, makes the oft-heard point that the many awful incidents of miserable judgement and outright misconduct, if not criminal conduct, on the part of teachers and administrators should not be projected on the education profession as a whole, since these are relatively rare. I hear him, but I am not convinced. Continue reading →
Reading news stories about cruel, power-abusing, or judgement-deficient teachers and school administrators is like eating potato chips, I’ve discovered. Once you start, it’s hard to stop. Luckily for my waistline and cholesterol levels, eventually potato chip bags become empty. Unfortunately, the supply of terrible tales of student abuse appears to be bottomless.
In Staten Island, 9-year-old Patrick Timoney, a fourth-grader at PS 52, South Beach, was observed by his school principal playing with LEGOs during his lunch period. One of the LEGO action figures was carrying what appeared to be a toy automatic weapon. The principal, Evelyn Matroianni took Patrick, crying and frightened, into her office, and called the boy’s mother. She told her that she considered the toy a violation of the no-tolerance rule prohibiting guns and gun replicas, and that she was going to confirm this with a security administrator from the city Department of Education. Continue reading →