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Florida high school teacher Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp is under fire this week for making her students wear a "cone of shame." The plastic cone, also known as an Elizabethan collar, is traditionally placed around an animal's neck to prevent it from licking wounds.
At least eight of her 9th grade students wore the cone of shame during April, according to the Tampa Bay Times. She told district officials that she thought it would be a good way to "redirect student behavior."
Some students thought it was hilarious and asked to wear the cone of shame, reports WTSP-TV. But others were embarrassed. Parents were also upset and alerted the school when they found pictures of students in the cone of shame on Facebook.
The district superintendent has recommended that Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp be dismissed from Zephyrhills High School. Placing students in the cone of shame apparently violates district and state ethics rules. It may also violate the students' rights.
Even if Bailey-Cutkomp isn't fired, the severely embarrassed students may be able to sue her for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. They would need to prove that her extreme or outrageous behavior intentionally or recklessly caused severe emotional distress.
Placing the cone of shame on students is arguably extreme and outrageous. The student-teacher relationship generally does not permit such demeaning and highly embarrassing conduct. Bailey-Cutkomp effectively equated these children to dogs in front of their peers.
She also had to know that this would cause at least a few of the students extreme embarrassment. And if it did, those students have a decent legal claim.
Teachers like Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp have a lot of leeway with how they handle student discipline, but they can only go so far. And putting students in a cone of shame seems to have crossed the line.