• Thu, Jul 31 - 10:00 am ET

First Grader Doodles On Desk, Awful Teacher Forces Her To Sit On Floor For Weeks

shutterstock_3969124I always try to see a teacher’s side when a news story surfaces about an alleged infraction he or she may have committed. I can’t imagine being in charge of a room full of grade schoolers, and I doubt it’s an easy task. But I just can’t understand what made this Houston teacher think taking a desk away from a first grader and forcing her to sit on the floor for weeks was okay.

The young girl doodled on her desk. The teacher at Westwood Elementary intended to force her to sit on the floor for the remainder of the school year. After four weeks of sitting on the floor, the first grader finally mentioned it to her parents. Can you imagine?

The teacher sent an email to the child’s mother, detailing the punishment she would receive. The message claimed the girl lost recess for the day, was made to wash the desk, and had to visit the principal’s office. There was no mention of her desk being removed. The girl apparently returned to school the day after the drawing incident to find her desk gone. Her teacher told her she wouldn’t get it back until second grade. The mother spoke to USA Today:

“I asked her,’Why did you not tell me?’ and she said, ‘I was too scared to tell you, Mama,’” the mother said. “She thought what she had done was so bad she didn’t deserve to have a desk.”

“I mean it’s like a primal instinct that you feel to protect your child,” she said. “The fact that I sent her there every day not knowing that that’s what she was going into because nobody made me aware, it’s horrible.”

How did no one in the school notice this? It’s been a long while since I was in grade school, and my kids aren’t of age yet – but I seem to remember principals and other administrators dropping into class occasionally. How did this go undetected?

The teacher has been reprimanded and the mother is transferring her daughter to a new school next year. The mom has hired an attorney and filed a grievance with Spring Branch ISD, because she says she doesn’t want this to happen to another student. I don’t blame her. This is inexcusable. The teacher’s actions show a lack of common sense – and it was just downright mean. I wouldn’t want my child taught by someone like that.

(photo: Mike Flippo/ Shutterstock)

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  • Melissa

    This is sad and awful. Can’t say I’ve never gotten a little snappish with my 8th graders (um, the whole time I was pregnant), but any teacher who deserves to be in the profession would never single out and humiliate a student like this as a punishment.

  • blh

    Making her siton the floor for a month was way over the top but I would’ve made her siton the floor for a day or something. You’re acting like the teacher beat her or something.

    • Melissa

      For doodling on a desk? Really?

    • Erin Murphy

      As a 6 year old I would have preferred a private beating to being embarrassed publicly. Also, how can a child learn while sitting on the floor? If she’s not on the front row. She can’t see. If she is up front she’s craning her head uncomfortably.

    • rockmonster

      Bullies are vicious, brosef. They could have probably singled her out for their own brand of punishment.

    • guest

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure in first grade we still sat on the floor for certain portions of the day anyway. I’m not super concerned with a kid spending a day on the floor. Four weeks of sitting on the floor for something like doodling on a desk though is just idiotic… and it sounds like that teacher hasn’t had to deal with real trouble makers yet.

    • Justme

      Not in first grade. The punishment should fit the crime – the girl had to clean her desk and it should have been recorded for the parents to know about, but beyond that? Nope.

    • BexleyS

      I don’t even really see how sitting in the floor should be a punishment for writing on a desk!?! The only time I get the kids in my class to sit in the floor is if they have been swinging in their chair and had a warning about it, and that’s only because it’s dangerous to swing on chairs. Even then it’s only for 15-20 mins max. They can’t do their work properly sat in the floor! If I were that teacher I’d have made her clean it, I wouldn’t have even told the principal. If you can deal with a minor issue like that in class then you’re not a very good teacher. I would probably have mentioned it to the parent at home time and just said that it’s been dealt with because I hate the thought that a child is getting punished at home as well.

    • Justme

      Okay? I don’t disagree with you?

    • BexleyS

      Yeah I’ve just read my comment back and realised that it didn’t make that much sense : ) I was agreeing wih your comment wholeheartedly : )

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      I’m assuming “swinging in [a] chair” means that thing that kids do where they tilt their chair back and balance on the back legs, yes?

    • BexleyS

      It is. Even though every teacher tells of horror stories of children swinging on their chair, falling off and splitting their head open, the only person I know to have actually done this is me : )

    • Kelly

      So you think the punishment was way over the top but everyone else is ridiculous for also agreeing that the punishment was way over the top.

      OK…

  • Warren Pacholzuk

    Past the point of punishment into abusive treatment.

  • Elyne

    This punishment is way over the top. I can understand cleaning the table and going to the principle. But sitting on the ground for a month or even the rest of the school year? That’s waaay out of line.

  • https://twitter.com/perfctlyflawd1 JenH1986

    I find myself asking the same question over and over. How did this make sense in the idiot teacher’s pea brain?

  • keelhaulrose

    Well that seems like a calm and rational response.
    Oh, I forgot, no sarcasm font yet.
    I try to see the teacher’s side in things because I’ve seen lots of classrooms, but I can’t think how this punishment works in the slightest.

  • personal

    I can imagine bein forced to sit on the floor for the rest of the day might have been acceptable, but for 4 weeks?! What is wrong with People?! When we get so punishment-fixated?

    • Michael Weldon

      Some people just don’t handle any position of power over others very well.

  • Tisa Berry

    We had a situation similar to this at the daycare I work at. One of the girls carved her name into the table and so we made her help in the kitchen for two hours for the remainder of the week (three days) to ‘pay’ for what she ruined. It wasn’t grueling work or anything, she just had to cut out food receipts and tape them to paper.

  • shoey

    Hmmm so if a middle school student of mine constantly puts his feet on the desk, I warn them that the next time they do it, they have to stand for the rest of class. I do it in a fun way and they kids are good-natured about it. I wouldn’t do this for a sensitive, shy student. But then again, those students aren’t usually the ones climbing over school furniture and getting them all dirty.
    Also, if a student never brings materials to class and borrows my pencils without returning them, next time I have them exchange a shoe for a pencil. They get the shoe back when they return the pencil. The kids get a kick out of hopping around the classroom. And I always get my pencils back.
    Both these tactics are in good fun, but in my mind, teach respect and responsibility. What do you guys think? Am I being too cruel?

    • Erin Murphy

      I think you’re spot on! You take personalities into consideration and middle schoolers are drastically different than first graders. I mean this is setting the tone for her 12 years of schooling.

    • LadyClodia the Modest Rat

      Personally I think what you’re doing is OK; it seems like a creative way to deal with the situations. Plus, middle schoolers are definitely able to understand what’s going on.
      The only thing I would worry about is it some parent who thinks they have a special snowflake in your class gets wind of it and throws a fit to administration. I’d like to say that’s unlikely to happen; nowadays, though, I’m not so sure.

    • shoey

      You’re probably right- parents can throw a fit over the littlest things and make you change how to do things in the classroom. I once had a parent write an extremely nasty email about how I shared her son’s bad grades to another student. Now, she requested this particular student to pick up her sick son’s graded work and homework when he was absent. Damned if you, damned if you don’t…

    • LadyClodia the Modest Rat

      Uhhh, wow. I don’t even know what else to say about that.

    • Justme

      I once had to have a parent-teacher-principal meeting about how I wouldn’t raise a quiz grade from a 65 to a 70 so that this woman’s son would receive a 95 for the six weeks instead of a 94. I mean, it would be the FIRST grade below 95 that this child had ever received (7th grade) and it was going to be devastating for him.

      ETA: I did not raise the grade and he received a 94…then he was quickly moved out of my class. Thank goodness.

    • Justme

      Middle schoolers are completely different from a first grader and it seems like you know your audience. I don’t see this as a problem at all.

    • K.

      I think those are great.

      To me, the whole idea of discipline is to demonstrate WHY certain behaviors aren’t good behaviors, not to punish bad behavior.

      Exchanging the shoe is awesome a) it solves the immediate problem (can’t leave without your shoe) and b) it makes the kid aware of the problem in a way that’s not shaming so it can be solved long-term.

      So MS teacher, I salute you!

    • Person

      I don’t think your being cruel but I think it could be a mean rule. If the a child can be humiliated by the punishment, especially if that is the intended purpose, than yes it’s cruel. I think what this teacher did was humiliating, and degrading and, while I don’t think it is at it’s core, I think a kid having to give you a shoe could be humiliating.

    • Justme

      You have to know your audience. For the vast majority of kids in a middle school, giving up a shoe for borrowing a pencil is not a big deal – in fact, it’s quite hilarious. I can think of a few kids that I definitely wouldn’t inflict the shoe rule upon, but quite frankly…those kids never forget their pencil and if they do, they discreetly borrow from a friend.

    • 2Well

      I had a teacher who made you trade something for a pencil. It didn’t have to be a shoe; it could be a book or folder or even your backpack. I think she made an exception for the kids who couldn’t afford pencils (she gave the benefit of the doubt because it’s fairly easy to tell usually, and plus it’s rather embarrassing to say you can’t afford school supplies. Usually the office would supply a pack of pencils even.)

    • Jeff

      A lot of kids, and i daresay, most kids, only learn their lesson when humiliation is a part of the discipline. Most kids, will not display good behavior, or follow social norms without good cause. It’s extra work to say thank you, it’s extra work to say please, it’s extra work to remember to follow this rule or that. Kids have no incentive to do this extra work…not without the humiliation.

      give me two kids, I’ll discipline one with a fair bit of humiliation, and you can discipline the other as you like, and we’ll see which kid is better behaved at the end of a month.

      for the record, i have a 5 year old daughter, and I’m always being complimented on how well behaved she is. :) she never, ever, throws a tantrum in public. She did once, just once…….

    • Rachel Sea

      I like it, but I’d run it by the administration. If a parent complains because their snowflake experienced a consequence, you’ll want the principal to be standing with you.

    • GPMeg

      I agree, I think knowing your audience is KEY. We have taken table privileges away before, but it usually involves multiple warnings and talking to the parents before it gets to that level. We are also very aware of what the kids can handle (like you said, shy and sensitive are dealt with differently) and what we know their parents will agree with.

      The lady in the article… she went too far.

    • Em

      I think those are perfect.

    • Aldonza

      We do the shoe thing with pencils on our rehearsals. Kids are grades 3-6. So far, they all mostly think it’s funny. I think a lot is in keeping the approach light.

  • LadyClodia the Modest Rat

    I can understand having the girl wash the desk, but even losing recess and being sent to the principal sound a bit over the top unless there were previous warnings. But that her desk was taken away is ridiculous, and then she was too scared to tell her mother.
    I’m wondering how I can instill in my boys that if something happens at school like this that they can tell me about it. It’s a fine line, though; you want them to respect their teachers, and we usually tell them not to tattle, but we also want to know when something serious happens. Little kids are generally not very good about understanding the nuances of those differences.

  • ted3553

    The teacher was way over the top making her sit on the floor for weeks but I also think the parents are over the top for suing. Express your outrage for sure and it sounds like when people found out, the teacher was disciplined by the school. I just don’t understand why you’d sue. That sounds extreme in this situation.

    • guest

      $$$$$$$$

    • coupdefoudre

      I could be wrong, but I don’t think that filing a grievance with the school district is the same as suing.

    • ted3553

      you’re right- I read it wrong

  • Rachel

    Teaching young children is a stressful, underappreciated profession. And to top it all off, children are basically dominoes at that age. Once one of them goes out of control, the rest topple after him/her. So, some snapping could be forgiven.

    Still, all that I see this boiling down to is an adult BULLYING a child over a prolonged period of time. And, how was this woman accomplishing her job as a teacher while doing this? I don’t see the kid learning how to read and write on the floor.

  • Sara610

    It seems like having the girl wash her desk during choice time (NOT recess–recess serves an important purpose for young kids and taking it away just causes more problems!) would have been a more appropriate and logical consequence. If I were her mom, I also would have her write a note of apology and hand-deliver it to the teacher along with a verbal apology.

  • K2

    “the girl lost recess for the day, was made to wash the desk, and had to visit the principal’s office! …Is that not punishment enough?? For goodness sake! She was made to wash it, which perfectly fits the ‘crime’!

    How humiliating, too.

  • Savannah61

    If my students draw on the desk, they have to clean it after the lesson or activity is over, which is usually during their choice time. Honestly, taking their desk away is just going to cause more problems for me because they still need to do work, which means I’d have to give them a clipboard or something, then other students want a clipboard, and it goes on & on. Desks clean easily. Unless the kid is doing it over & over it’s not a big deal at all.

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    What a jerk! Can you imagine how that 6, 7 year old kid felt sitting on the ground while everyone else got a desk? And what kind of social message that sent about the worth of that kid to the other kids? It’s intentionally socially stigmatizing. Mean.
    And in grade seven, my teacher had a policy that we were allowed to doodle on our desks. However, we’d have to wash them thoroughly periodically at designated times to freshen them up. But it just removed an issue for our teacher, who wanted to give us the chance to personalize our space and then hold us responsible for our choice to do so, while no longer having to police people about it.
    Of course, for smaller kids that’s maybe not the best idea (I wouldn’t want to have little kids run around fussing with soapy buckets in the class room) but drawing on a desk is not like carving your initials into it. It’s the mildest form of valdalism. Even calling the principal into it was overkill. Washing the desk and losing recess would be more than sufficient.

  • http://fakegeekmom.com Aimee

    This reminds of that thing KIPP schools have been known to do, with making students “earn” the right to a desk and chair over the first few weeks of school – they have to sit on the floor until they prove they deserve the right to be treated like a real student by meeting certain goals. Whatever KIPP administrators think and whatever this teacher thought, debasing a child to “teach them a lesson” doesn’t teach them anything but that you’re an adult in their life that can’t be trusted.

    • K.

      Don’t get me started on KIPP schools.

      Eli Broad can eat my tush.

  • Rachel Sea

    It was the same when I was in school. I don’t think that any of the parents knew that we got hit, because none of us were going to tell our parents we had been so bad the teacher struck us. I don’t know that there would have been any way to convey that telling about having been punished wouldn’t just get us in more trouble.

  • BREEDER

    I would have made her clean the desk during recess and doodle on it after school and make her do it the second day during recess, I think she would get the message

  • billpayer008

    that teacher is a scum

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Just remind her to use paper. It’s no big.

    Making her sit on the floor is just cruel, man.

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