Hard Labor As School Discipline
Sentencing an 11 year old to hard labor because she didn’t do her homework is an outrageous abuse of power (the student should have told her principal to pound salt), but equally abusive was the principal’s decision to terminate the employment of a teacher who took pity on the poor girl.
As discipline for neglecting homework, a fourth grade student in the East Lynne (Missouri) School District was ordered to pick up rocks from a playground near the road in front of the school. Teacher Christa Price complained to Superintendent Dan Doerhoff that the punishment was both extreme and dangerous. Doerhoff didn’t care about the girl’s safety (or about the image of “school as penitentiary” he was creating), so Price used her free period to help the girl pick up the rocks.
At contract time in March, Doerhoff recommended firing Price, who until then had glowing performance evaluations and was liked by parents and praised by colleagues.
Doerhoff cited the teacher’s “insubordination” as grounds for termination. Even more troubling is Doerhoff’s refusal to sign the certification required for Price to find another teaching job.
To their credit, seven of the ten classroom teachers in the district resigned to protest Doerhoff’s autocratic style. Doerhoff didn’t learn from the protest; he simply filled the positions with other teachers. Nor did he learn from the girl’s perceptive comment that being forced to haul rocks in a five gallon bucket "made me feel like a slave." He does allow, however, that the adverse publicity might make him think twice about assigning hard labor to fourth graders.
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