Teaching practices exposed on Facebook

The "cone of shame", once uploaded to Facebook, has placed a teacher's job in jeopardy.

When questionable teaching practices enter the classroom, you'd better hope your students don't record the evidence.

At school, I remember certain events which are questionable by any standard. Children locked in cupboards and forgotten ties -- part of the uniform -- replaced with a paper substitute bound to the neck with sellotape.

One such 'teaching' method used by teacher Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp, employed at Zephyrhills High, Pasco County, may cost the teacher her job as the evidence was uncovered on social networking site, Facebook.

The teacher used a cone-shaped collar, also known as an Elizabethan collar, to punish misbehaving students.

Dubbed "the cone of shame", according to ninth-graders, students who arrived late or behaved poorly were forced to wear it. Usually reserved for preventing animals from licking their wounds, according to reports, at least eight students were made to wear the item by the veterinarian-turned-teacher.

Pictures showing the cone being used in this manner were uploaded to Facebook, which led to parental complaints.

In a written statement, one student explained how the teacher used the item for 'student discipline':

"I was in second period. I was drinking soda, and she said, 'Do I have to put the cone on you? I didn't say anything and she put it on me."

Bailey-Cutkomp brought the cone to school after showing students the Pixar movie "Up", according to the Times. In the film, a dog called Dug is forced to wear a "cone of shame" as punishment -- replicated on the students.

Some students found the idea amusing and asked to wear the "cone of shame", according to reports. However, once the photos were discovered on Facebook after being uploaded by students, parents did not find the idea so funny.

In self-defence, Bailey-Cutkomp said it was meant to be a "joke" and the aim was not to hurt or embarrass anyone. She told investigating district officials that she believed the cone would be an effective way to "redirect student behavior".

Pasco County schools superintendent Heather Fiorentino has recommended firing the physical science teacher. In a letter detailing the recommendation, Fiorentino wrote:

"I am stunned that you would put dog collars on students for any reason. I am very concerned that you used this collar to punish and embarrass students in front of their peers.

When asked how you selected students to wear the collar, you explained that you initially used it to redirect student behavior. You also stated that some students requested to wear the collar to see how difficult it was to eat and move around while wearing it. Finally, you stated that you gave some students the option of either wearing the collar or sitting at the tardy table when they arrived late to your class."

The teacher has been suspended and is waiting for a decision from the school board on whether she will be dismissed.

It can be seen as ironic that while the issue of cyberbullying and inappropriate student behavior online is often focused on, this time, it was a teacher's actions that were discovered through Facebook. The board has been attempting to create a policy to control the taking of photos and videos at school, and now this issue has been placed back on the agenda.

Image credit: Mythic Seabass

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