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Outrageous School Punishments – 10 Examples of Punishment Gone Too Far

When it comes to disciplining students in school, how far is too far? It seems there are many cases where students of all ages are handed punishments that are totally disproportionate — and inappropriate — to their infractions. Below are some of the most shocking and appalling examples of punishments taken too far in school.

1. Sophomore Punished for Wearing Flag Shirt

The transgression:

In 2008, high school sophomore Jake Shelly wore a T-shirt printed with a tie-dyed American flag and the phrase “United States of America, Washington, D.C.” He wore it on “Hippie Day,” part of Dos Palos High School’s homecoming week.
The punishment:

The school’s assistant principal deemed the shirt a violation of the dress code, which prohibits clothing that “promote specific races, cultures, or ethnicities.” The student was forced to take off the shirt and spend the day instead in a bright-yellow shirt that read “DCV: Dress Code Violator.”

How the punishment went overboard:

The shirt was worn in support of the United States, not a specific race or culture. Aside from not actually haven broken any rules, the student was outraged and humiliated at being forced to wear the punishment shirt. There was an outcry from the student population on the student’s behalf, and the school ended up reversing the decision and apologizing to the student.

2. Girl Left Out of Yearbook

The transgression:

Charlie Patton, 15, wanted a fun, eye-catching yearbook picture, so she mussed her hair and pulled a wide-eyed, wide-grinned funny face for the school photographer. The school’s officials, however, interpreted the pose as a possible gang reference.

The punishment:

At the time the picture was taken, nobody said it was a problem, and Patton used the photo on her ID card for the first couple months of the 2009 school year. But then, school officials told her the photo would not be in the yearbook. They released this statement: “Since the yearbook represents the school and the students, the goal is to have every student presented in the best light. Students who make inappropriate faces or gestures or who do not follow the school dress code in their yearbook photos are asked to retake their photo free of charge.”
How the punishment went overboard:

There are no hand gestures in the photo, precluding the possibility of a gang reference. Furthermore, Patton says that she was never asked to retake the photo. “I’m not making fun of anyone, I think it just looks happy,” said Patton. “It’s almost like they’re deleting me from Madison High School.”

3. Six-year old Suspended

The transgression:

In March of 2010, six-year-old Mason Jammer was playing with his friends at recess when he curled his hand into a gun shape and pointed it at a student.
The punishment:

Jammer was given a two-day suspension from school. School officials have justified the punishment by pointing to the school’s zero-tolerance policy on guns and violence. They also said that the boy was making other students uncomfortable with his pretend gun, and that he had been warned against aiming his hand several times before.

How the punishment went overboard:

Mason Jammer has never exhibited any violent tendencies, nor has he ever come to school with any real or toy guns. “He’s only six, and he doesn’t understand any of this,” said his mother Erin Jammer. “Maybe what you could do is take his recess away.”

4. Thirteen-year-old Girl Strip Searched

The transgression:

At age 13, eighth grader Savana Redding was suspected of carrying prescription-strength ibuprofen pills in her underwear. She had no such pills on her, but the school’s vice principal was responding to a claim by another student who had been caught with pills and said that she’d received them from Redding.

The punishment:

The school’s assistant principal pulled Redding out of class to search her backpack and outer clothes. When no pills were found, he empowered the school nurse to strip-search Redding in order to find the pills. She was asked to strip down to her underwear, then to pull out each side of her bra and then her underwear.

How the punishment went overboard:

Redding was so humiliated by this treatment that she left the school and refused to come back. Her mother, infuriated at what she saw as a grievous overreaction and infraction of her daughter’s civil rights, filed suit against both the assistant principal and the school district. The case went on for six years, eventually reaching the U.S. Supreme Court. In June of 2009 the court finally ruled in favor of Redding, saying that the strip search violated Redding’s Constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

5. Preschooler Faced Expulsion for Hairstyle

The transgression:

In 2007, three-year-old Jayce Brown had been attending Southern Maryland Christian Academy for one month when his parents received a letter saying the child’s hair would need to be cut if he was to continue at the school. His hair was in dreadlocks, the same hairstyle as his parents. His parents refused to cut their son’s hair.

The punishment:

The Browns were told that beginning September 24th, Jayce faced expulsion if his hair wasn’t cut. The school cited their handbook policy prohibiting “extremely faddish styles including the use of rubber bands or the ‘twisting’ of hair.” The Browns said cutting their son’s hair was too extreme, offering to pull the locks into a ponytail instead. The school insisted on a haircut, however, and when the Browns again refused, Jayce was suspended indefinitely.

How the punishment went overboard:

Jayce’s mother, Danielle Brown, maintains that she never signed any form agreeing that her son would adhere to the dress code. Both parents argue that the dreadlocks are neither “faddish” nor a fashion statement, but are instead part of a family and cultural heritage. Concerned that their son’s expulsion was being threatened on racial grounds, they hired a civil rights lawyer.

6. Boy Banned From Graduation for Haircut

The transgression:

Ben Sharpe, 13, was a straight-A student at Capital Christian Center School in Sacramento. As graduation approached, Sharpe was presented with the Superintendent’s Award for being an exceptional student and was asked to speak at graduation. A few days before the ceremony, Sharpe got a cropped haircut. The next day he was told the cut was too short, violating the school’s policies.

The punishment:

Sharp was banned from speaking or participating in the graduation ceremonies. His parents tried to reason with school officials, but they insisted that Sharp had broken the rules and couldn’t be a part of graduation. In fact, Sharp wasn’t even mentioned during the graduation ceremony.  “I’ve seen many kids throughout the school year with short haircuts like mine. It isn’t shaved; the barber used clippers,” said Sharp.

How the punishment went overboard:

His parents believe that the overly-harsh punishment was a racist, spiteful decision. His mother pointed out that the school rules state that first-time infractions merit a warning; Ben was punished outright. And, says his father, “It’s more than a haircut. He’s bright and he’s black and he’s leaving their school for a different high school. The haircut is just an excuse.” Ben Sharpe is now a doctoral candidate, and the Church that runs that school has since apologized.

7. High School Student Punished for MySpace Page

The transgression:

On December 10 of 2006, high school senior Justin Layshock created a MySpace profile page for the principal of his high school, Eric Trosch. The page included a picture of the principal from the school’s website and listed a series of joke answers (mostly “fat jokes”) to the profile questions.

The punishment:

Layshock tried to remove the page after three days, but it had already been taken down. Then, on December 21st, both Layshock and his mother were called in to a meeting with the school superintendant, district solicitor and the co-principal of the high school to discuss the MySpace page. After the meeting, Layshock apologized to Principal Trosch in person and also sent him a former letter of apology. He thought the matter ended there.
But then, on January 3rd, Layshock was contacted by the local police department and informed that Trosch had asked that harassment charges be filed against Layshock. On January 6th, Layshock faced a hearing at the school on charges of “disrespect; harassment; gross misbehavior; obscene, vulgar and profane language; and for violating the school’s computer policy for using a picture without permission.” He was suspended from school for 10 days and then ordered to finish high school in the Alternative Education Program. He was banned from going to any of his regular classes, as well as any school-related activities such as his French tutoring program and his own graduation.

How the punishment went overboard:

Layshock maintains that he created the page on a home computer, and never accessed it from school; the page also contained no threats or obscenities, as cited in the charge. Layshock contested the decision and, when his and his parents’ requests to reconsider the harsh measures were denied, filed suit against the school district. The suit cited First Amendment rights and asked that the incident be removed from Layshock’s record and that he be returned to his regular classes. In 2010, the court ruled in his favor and Layshock was awarded 10,000 in damages from the school.

8. Lesbian Teen Sent to Fake Prom

The transgression:

Fulton, Mississippi teen Constance McMillen petitioned school officials to allow her to attend the prom with her girlfriend. The school’s policy prohibited same-sex couples from attending school functions together, and she asked that they revoke both that rule and the rule that would keep her from wearing a tuxedo to the event. She informed the ACLU of the school’s refusal to change their policy; the school district was sued, and the judge ruled in McMillen’s favor. Rather than revoke their policy, however, the school simply canceled the prom.
What the reaction/punishment was:

The real punishment, however, was not that the prom was canceled. It was that the prom was held after all, encouraged by the school and hosted by private citizens. But McMillen wasn’t invited to this prom. In fact, the event was kept secret from her, and she and her girlfriend, along with several students with special needs, were sent to a separate, staged prom.

How the punishment went overboard:

For the school to cancel the prom rather than dealing directly with her request to change their policy was bad enough. But holding a fake prom to keep her away from the real one, all because she was openly gay, was even more insulting and, in the end, damaging. McMillen faced such vicious harassment from her fellow students that she transferred to a new school after the incident.

9. Kindergartner Humiliated In Front of Class

The transgression:

Five-year-old Alex Barton has behavioral problems and is undergoing testing for autism. He frequently acted up in his kindergarten class, and in May of 2010, he disrupted class one time too many. He was escorted to the assistant principal, given a talking-to, and asked to promise that he wouldn’t “kick students, throw crayons, eat crayons, crawl under the table, kick the table of other students … [or] disrupt the class.” His promise made, Alex was sent back to class.

The punishment:

When he got back, his teacher, Wendy Portillo, had him stand at the front of the class. She then invited the other students to tell Alex what they didn’t like about him. Portillo herself told him, “I hate you right now. I don’t like you today.” Finally, she had the class vote on whether or not Alex should stay in the class. After a 14-2 vote against letting him stay, Alex was again sent out of the room, and spent the rest of the day in the nurse’s office.
How the punishment went overboard:

Undoubtedly the boy was hard to handle, and his disruptive behavior was made that much worse by his learning and behavioral disabilities. But for a teacher to invite a class of 5-year-olds to insult and ostracize a fellow student, and berate him herself in front of them, is unconscionable. Alex was deeply humiliated by the incident. He lost his appetite, wouldn’t sleep in his own bed, and began repeating the phrase “I’m not special” over and over to himself.

10. Teacher Cut Off a Child’s Braid

The transgression:

In December of 2009, 7-year-old Lamaya Cammon was playing with her beaded braids during class. Her teacher told her to stop, but she continued fiddling with her braids.

The punishment:

The teacher lured Lamaya up to her desk with an offer of candy; then, without a word, she pulled out a pair of classroom scissors and chopped off one of the braids. She sent Lamaya back to her desk crying, while the other children laughed at the girl’s humiliation.

How the punishment went overboard:

Lamaya’s mother furiously confronted the teacher about cutting her daughter’s hair. The teacher simply replied, “Well, I do apologize, but I was frustrated.” The police fined the teacher $175, and the school put her through a disciplinary process. Lamaya, meanwhile, was moved to a different class.

Images:

http://www.moonbattery.com/archives/2008/09/patriotism_as_a.html

http://hiphopwired.com/2009/12/14/teacher-cuts-off-students-braid-for-punishment/

http://blogs.babble.com/strollerderby/2009/12/08/teen-kicked-out-of-yearbook-for-funny-face/

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/05/27/earlyshow/main4130288.shtml

http://www.kval.com/news/national/97159514.html

http://sharonherald.com/local/x1208341785/Layshocks-school-try-to-settle-lawsuit-over-Myspace-profile

http://blackchristiannews.com/news/2009/09/in-the-spirit-of-peace-california-church-apologizes-to-those-it-has-hurt.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/23/AR2007112301624.html

http://arbroath.blogspot.com/2010/03/6-year-old-suspended-from-school-for.html

http://www.bittenandbound.com/2009/06/25/supreme-court-rules-savana-redding-strip-search-illegal/

Comments (4)

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  1. Judge Tom says:

    These and other real cases are presented on America’s only teen-law web site: http://www.askthejudge.info
    Take a look and join the discussion. We also cover current subjects including bullying and cyberbullying.

    After 23 years in juvenile court, I believe that teenagers learn from the experiences of their peers, not just from being lectured by those in authority.

    Consequently, “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” was published in January, 2010.
    Endorsed by Dr. Phil on April 8, 2010 [“Bullied to Death” show], “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” presents real cases of teens in trouble over their online and cell phone activities.

    Civil & criminal sanctions have been imposed on teens over their emails, blogs, text and IM messages, Facebook entries and more. TCI is interactive and promotes education & awareness so that our youth will begin to “Think B4 U Click.”

    Thanks for looking at “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” on http://www.freespirit.com [publisher] or on http://www.askthejudge.info [a free website for & about teens and the law].

    Respectfully, -Judge Tom.

  2. articles says:

    Looks like teachers are getting very sensitive these days

  3. Judge Tom says:

    This is a great collection of cases about our youth and the laws that apply to them. I’ve written about most of them on http://www.askthejudge.info (a free web site for & about teens and the law).

    After 23 years in juvenile court, I believe that teenagers learn from the experiences of their peers, not just from being lectured by those in authority. Consequently, “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” was published in January, 2010.

    Endorsed by Dr. Phil on April 8, 2010 [“Bullied to Death” show], “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” presents real cases of teens in trouble over their online and cell phone activities.

    Civil & criminal sanctions have been imposed on teens over their emails, blogs, text and IM messages, Facebook entries and more. TCI is interactive and promotes education & awareness so that our youth will begin to “Think B4 U Click.”

    Thanks for looking at “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” on http://www.freespirit.com [publisher] or on http://www.askthejudge.info [a free website for & about teens and the law].

    Respectfully, -Judge Tom.

  4. Students wounded by school is the main theme in Kirsten Olson’s book “Wounded by School.” I this valuable book, Olson covers the many ways students suffer at the hands of schools and offers abundant advice for healing and avoiding wounds altogether. You can read a summary of this book at DrDougGreen.Com. If you do, I’m sure you will want this book in your school. This is an unsolicited and unpaid recommendation.
    Douglas W. Green, EdD

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