A Milwaukee teacher says she was frustrated when she cut off 7-year-old Lamya Cammon’s braid. The first-grader had been playing with her beaded hair, and the teacher called her to the front of the class, cut off one of Lamya’s braids, and threw it in the garbage. Lamya says she went back to her seat and cried while the rest of the class laughed. She told her mother about the incident, and the mother confronted the teacher, who apologized and said she was frustrated at the time. The teacher was punished with a disorderly conduct fine of $175, yet she’s still teaching the same first grade class. Lamya has been moved to another class at the Congress Elementary School. This incident really hits home for me because last month my cousin’s 11-year-old son was also humiliated by his teacher. A girl in his class was teasing him about his dreadlocked hair. When he complained to the teacher, she said, in front of the whole class to hear, that his hair reminds her of Medusa. Now, you have to understand that his hairstyle wasn’t his choice and is more than a style; it’s a cultural expression that his parents, who also have locks, want to convey.
But really that’s beside the point. Since when is a teacher’s frustration or dislike of a student more important than the self-esteem and well-being of a child? I don’t understand how humiliation is now becoming an acceptable form of punishment. I remember being made to stand with my hands on my head when I was in elementary school, but my body wasn’t violated by this punishment (though my arms did get tired). We did away with corporal punishment in schools because it’s an assault on a child’s body and psyche.
A $175 fine and not being fired isn’t enough of a punishment for the Milwaukee teacher. And in the case of my cousin’s son? Well, he was moved to another class, but the teacher continues to go unpunished, despite my cousin’s contacting the school and the school board. The only lesson these children have learned from these ordeals is that they don’t have rights and that it’s OK for someone to violate or humiliate them.