Florida teacher suspended for making students wear 'cone of shame'
By Isolde Raftery, msnbc.com
A Florida high school teacher was suspended for allegedly making her students wear a wide-brimmed, plastic dog collar as a form of discipline, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
In a stern letter sent to Zephyrhills High School science teacher Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp, Superintendent Heather Fiorentino wrote that she would recommend Bailey-Cutkomp be fired.
"I am very concerned that you used this collar to punish and embarrass students in front of their peers," Fiorentino wrote.
Bailey-Cutkomp allegedly gave students the option of wearing the collar or sitting at the tardy table if they arrived late to class. Eight students ended up wearing the collar, the superintendent said.
Read Superintendent Fiorentino's letter
Fiorentino described the cone as a “collar used to prevent animals who have had surgery from licking their wounds” and said the collar was inspired by the popular Pixar movie, “Up,” in which a pudgy golden retriever named Dug is forced to wear a “cone of shame.”
Bailey-Cutkomp had shown the movie to her class on the days before and after spring break, Fiorentino wrote. Bailey-Cutkomp had told administrators she did so because attendance is typically low on those days and she did not want her students to fall behind.
Dug, a golden retriever mix from the Pixar movie, "Up," was forced by other dogs to wear a dog collar, which he called "the cone of shame."
When students expressed interest about the cone of shame after seeing the movie, Bailey-Cutkomp, who has a veterinary background, explained that its proper name is an Elizabethan collar. (The name is a nod to Elizabethan times, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England, when the monarch and her subjects wore fashionable “ruffs,” or puffy, lacy collars around their necks.)
Administrators found out about the cone of shame after students posted photos of each other wearing the dog collar to Facebook.
“When asked how you selected students to wear the collar,” Fiorentino wrote in her letter, “you explained that you initially used it to redirect student behavior.”
Bailey-Cutkomp did not immediately reply to a message requesting comment sent to her work e-mail.
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Bailey-Cutkomp’s use of the dog cone is a variation of the dunce cap, which was a large piece of paper fashioned into a cone and placed on a child’s head. Children who had greater difficulty learning or paying attention were most often deemed the dunces.
Typically, the child was then made to stand in the corner of the classroom as a form of humiliation.
The dunce cap went out of fashion in the 20th century, according to wisegeek.com, and modern educators find there are few, if any, benefits to public humiliation.