Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Publicly Punished

The middle school has one two-story building. On my way to the upstairs classroom, I encountered a crowd on the stairs. This is generally frowned upon, but as my mind was on other things, I paid it little thought.

As the 8th graders meandered in, it was clear something had wound them up. Conversations clued me in that something was going on besides the minimum day.

One of the girls (without much prompting) explained.

Kayla stole an iPod out of a PE locker. She got caught. Was suspended.

That morning as everyone filtered in, Kayla stood out in front of the school holding a sign explaining her crime. The girl made sure to note that the sign's final statement said something about honking for Kayla. (The girl thought the honking bit was too much.)

The crowd on the stairs? They had a perfect vantage point to watch Kayla.

This surprised me. I didn't think the school's administration went for this sort of thing. The girl said that Kayla's father stood beside her, watching the whole thing.

Oh. It was the parent's idea.

That's kind of diabolically clever.

Kayla returned to school the next day. I made no mention of the incident, but another student did. Kayla looked chagrined, holding her binder over her face. But only one student mentioned it, and the embarrassment lasted less than a minute.

So, what do you think? Clever punishment? Unnecessary humiliation?


  1. Clever, but I don't really like. Middle school can be embarrassing enough, especially when you're punished, without your own parents holding you up to public humiliation.

  2. I like it. She did something wrong - stealing - got caught, and now has to publicly admit her crime, thereby doing penance. If she got suspended and no one knew, then the punishment wouldn't really have helped her or the person she stole from.

  3. It may be an effective punishment, but I have to agree with Carol about the public humiliation. The social pressures of middle school are tough enough. This is a little too much Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter for me.

    I do believe in teaching young people to accept responsibility for their actions, but I doubt this is the way to do it. Of course it's possible there have been dozens of other incidents, the father was out of ideas, and this was his last ditch effort.

    VR Barkowski

  4. I think it was a good idea. A middle schooler is kind of young for serious, police-involved punishment, but the embarrassment might actually teach her a lesson.

  5. I’m not sure it was really a teaching moment. Smacks of negative attention to me. Was she really that embarrassed and ashamed. I think not!


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