An ex-kindergarten teacher in Texas was sentenced to jail on Tuesday for telling her students to line up and hit a student to teach him a lesson about bullying.
The former teacher, Cynthia Ambrose, 44, will have to serve 30 days in jail in addition to two years of probation for her "eye for an eye" lesson to her kindergarten class in 2012, reports CBS.
It isn't illegal for teachers to control bullying, but creative punishments may start to look a lot like child abuse.
Teacher Convicted of Official Oppression
No one likes a school bully, even when it's in a kindergarten class, but prosecutors believe that teachers like Ambrose take discipline to a place "where it becomes criminal," reports the San Antonio Express-News.
Since public school teachers are essentially public servants, when a teacher intentionally subjects her students to "mistreatment," she is committing a crime by using her authority to unlawfully oppress a student.
A jury that convicted Ambrose in June heard evidence that the ex-teacher chose to discipline a class bully by instructing the class to "line up and hit the 6-year-old boy so he knows 'how it feels to be bullied,'" reports CBS News.
After Ambrose serves her jail time, she will serve two years of probation -- the maximum amount, which the judge imposed to prevent her from teaching for two years, reports the Express-News.
School Discipline Reigned In
As Ambrose's conviction demonstrates, forcing children to turn on each other "Lord of the Flies"-style is likely not a legal form of discipline. But many other gray areas exist.
Teachers nationwide have been fired and investigated for stunts like taping their students' mouths shut, but the reality is that there is no baseline standard for public school discipline across the states.
When dealing with issues like corporal punishment, many states have barred the practice of physically inflicting punishment. But a sizeable minority of states still allow it.
Even if your home state permits some form of corporal punishment, creative punishments like Ambrose's teacher-sanctioned bully beating may still be against school policy and should be reported to school administrators.
- Ex-Teacher Sentenced for Having Students Hit Bully (The Associated Press)
- Texas Teacher Has 24 Kindergarteners Hit Bully (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Teacher Put Duct Tape Over Child's Mouth (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- 2nd Miramonte Elementary Teacher Arrested for Child Abuse (FindLaw's Blotter)