11 of the most shocking school punishments ever given

By Alex Harris

Published Sep 12, 2023 at 12:53 PM

Reading time: 5 minutes

According to Wikipedia, much of the traditional culture that surrounds corporal punishment in school, at any rate in the English-speaking world, derives largely from British practice in the 19th and 20th centuries. Advocates of school punishment argue that it provides an immediate response to indiscipline so that the student is quickly back in the classroom learning, unlike suspension from school. On the other hand, opponents, which include many medical and psychological societies along with human-rights groups, argue that physical punishment is ineffective in the long term, interferes with learning, leads to antisocial behaviour as well as causing low self-esteem and other forms of mental distress, and is a form of violence that breaches the rights of children.

That being said, some punishments that have been given to children in schools are quite unbelievable. Here are 11 of the most shocking punishments ever given to students.

11. Arrested for burping in class

In 2011, a 13-year-old student from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was allegedly arrested for burping during class. According to his lawsuit, after he “burped audibly,” his teacher called the school resource officer, who in turn called the authorities to have him arrested for “interfering with public education.”

The lawsuit also claimed that school authorities transported the boy from the school to the detention facility without notifying his parents. Additionally, it described an incident that took place a month before the burping incident in which the same boy was strip-searched on suspicion of selling marijuana. He was never charged.

10. Hit with a wooden paddle

In March 2018, Arkansas students who walked out of their high schools to protest gun violence against children were beaten with a wooden paddle by teachers as punishment. In some school districts of the US state, corporal punishment of schoolchildren by teachers is still legal, though only with the express permission of parents. Often, a wooden paddle is used to beat the legs or backsides of rule-breaking students.

Arkansas is not the only state that allows this practice in its education system. According to Newsweek, In October 2018, an Oklahoma school principal who spanked two students with a wooden paddle so hard they bruised severely faced police charges over the incident, in which he allegedly used “excessive force.”

9. A lesbian student was blocked from attending prom

In March 2010, the Itawamba County School District board made international news after a lesbian student Constance McMillen was refused permission to take her girlfriend to the school’s prom. As a result of a lawsuit brought against the school, the board decided to cancel the prom altogether.

Parents were then encouraged to organise a private prom, but they cancelled it. A second private prom was organised and represented to be the official prom. Meanwhile, parents organised a secret prom to which McMillen was not invited and which most of the student body attended. The school district settled the lawsuit by agreeing to a payment to McMillen and adoption of a sexual orientation non-discrimination policy.

8. A six-year-old was sent to a mental health facility for her tantrums

In February 2020, a six-year-old Florida student was sent to a mental health facility under the Baker Act after a series of alleged outbursts at school. Authorities and her family said she was kept there for 48 hours. At the time, Martina Falk—the mother of the little girl, Nadia—said officials from Love Grove Elementary School in Jacksonville called her that day to inform her that her daughter was out of control and would be sent to a mental health institution based on the recommendation of licensed health care professionals.

Nadia allegedly was destroying school property, attacking staff and running outside of school grounds, a clinical social worker said, according to the police incident report. In Florida, the Baker Act allows for a person to be held involuntarily at a mental health facility for up to 72 hours if that person is deemed a danger to themselves or others.

7. A teacher used a pitch dark closet to punish her students

11 of the most shocking school punishments ever given

In May 2012, a Houston, Texas teacher and aide were removed from their classroom for allegedly disciplining their pre-kindergarten students by placing them in custodial closets they nicknamed “monster closets.” Kelon Chaney, a four-year-old student at Varnett Charter School, received such disciplinary action when he laughed at another student who had been placed in the closet for acting up. The “monster closet” title was inspired by a book they were reading in class titled After-School Monsters.

6. A teacher had her students vote to remove a student from their class

In 2008, a Florida kindergarten teacher asked her students to openly state what they didn’t like about their fellow classmate, five-year-old Alex Barton, and vote on whether they wanted to allow him to stay in class. As the news made headlines, it was revealed that the boy had just been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Shortly after, Alex’s mother reached a $350,000 settlement with St. Lucie County education officials.

5. School staff cut the hair of a little girl without her parents’ permission

On 26 March 2021, Jimmy Hoffmeyer was shocked to see his seven-year-old daughter walk through the door—his daughter’s curly hair had been chopped within inches of her scalp. This incident took place just two days after the Hoffmeyer family had to deal with an unfortunate haircutting incident on the school bus.

11 of the most shocking school punishments ever given

On March 24, Jurnee Hoffmeyer was on the bus heading home from Ganiard Elementary School in Mount Pleasant, Michigan when a classmate cut her hair. Hoffmeyer’s long curly hair was cut several inches on one side to around shoulder length. When she got home that day, her family was stunned to see what had happened. But her father took her straight to the salon and let her choose a new look.

Days later, nearly all the biracial little girl’s hair had been cut, this time by school staff, who were white. “I asked what happened and said, ‘I thought I told you no child should ever cut your hair’,” Hoffmeyer told the Associated Press at the time. “She said, ‘But dad, it was the teacher’. The teacher cut her hair to even it out.”

4. Students were forced to eat off the floor

In 2008, seven Hispanic fifth-graders at Charles Sumner Elementary School in Camden, New Jersey were made to eat off the floor for two weeks as punishment for spilling a jug of water. According to Alan Schorr, the attorney for the students, then-vice principal Theresa Brown, had also punished 15 students in a bilingual class “by making them eat off paper liners normally used on lunch trays.”

3. Schools are banning students from having best friends

Some schools in the UK have taken the decision to ban students from having best friends. Thomas’ Battersea, the school Prince George attends, is one of the schools banning such friendships. Instead, teachers encourage all students to form bonds with one another to avoid creating feelings of exclusion among those without best friends.

Critics say the approach robs kids of the chance to form valuable coping skills. By grappling with mild social exclusion when they’re young, kids will emerge as more capable, resilient adults, these advocates argue.

2. Forced to smile in hallways at all time

Northern Lebanon School District students are required to smile while walking the hallways between classes. Students who don’t have a smile on their face while in hallways are allegedly told to either smile or see a guidance counsellor to discuss their problems.

11 of the most shocking school punishments ever given

15-year-old Julianna Gundrum, a student at the school district, said students who didn’t smile faced the consequences. “If you don’t [smile] you get called to the office or down to see your guidance counsellor,” she said. “You have to talk about your problems then. You have to or you get detention.”

1. Washington school puts students in solitary confinement

In 2012, it was revealed that Mint Valley Elementary School in Longview, Washington, had been utilising a padded “isolation chamber” to deal with students with “behavioural disabilities.” In other words, the school was throwing kids in solitary confinement. Anna Bate, whose son had been thrown in there, obtained photos and posted them on Facebook, which sparked the interest and anger of the media. According to the school, the box was used for “therapeutic” purposes and children with special needs were only placed inside with permission from their parents.

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