Parents protest ‘time-out’ cage in classroom

Parents protest ‘time-out’ cage in classroom
(Last Updated: Friday, February 9, 2007 | 3:09 PM ET CBC News)

A Shawinigan, Que., teacher who put a nine-year-old student in a lattice cage for misbehaving will not face any disciplinary measures, school board officials said Friday.

The boy’s parents discovered their son, Félix, had been kept in a makeshift cage at Shawinigan’s École St-Paul, after he complained to them he couldn’t see the blackboard.

When they visited the school, they discovered he’d been spending several hours a week in the lattice cage….The local school board director, Claude Leclerc, told Radio-Canada the teacher did nothing wrong by using what he called a time-out area for a difficult student.

I have a few thoughts about this…as I am sure many people do.

My mind goes to a cartoon I saw on the Internet a few months ago. It is a picture of a boy, standing next to his desk, students sitting around him at their desks, and his teacher at her desk. At the back of the class is a huge cage with a pacing tiger and the caption is, “Well, Timmy. It looks like you’ve just earned yourself 10 minutes in the cage with Mr. Whiskers.”

Extreme discipline cases like this reaffirm my belief that teachers are overwhelmed with all that they need to do in a day. An act like this seems desperate to me and I think that if we took the time to think about our values as people and educators, a decision such as to put a child in a caged in area – in front of his peers no less! – would not have been made.

They also reaffirm my belief that we need to build more time into our lives as educators for professional development to help us in dealing with classroom difficulties like this and others. Personally, I think that MELS needs to provide us with time solutions (and the $$ to accompany them) to do so – especially given the present school context of inclusion, integration, and differentiation.

And so, I don’t think that the teacher needs to receive disciplinary measures. Rather, I think that she needs to receive support that will assist her in making appropriate decisions regarding discipline in her classroom. Perhaps the rest of that particular school community could use some as well.

But really, despite all that, I have to ask how could a measure like this have been instated by the teacher and school without parent permission?

I don’t know the whole story, but that is a nagging question for me.

Any thoughts?


  • mijo says:

    Hi Tracy…. hope this finds you well.

    Some thoughts…..

    Western culture has a long history of mistreatment of children. Children were legally property to be used, misused, neglected or discarded by adults. We have a long history of instilling obedience in our children.

    This pattern continues. 21 States in America still allow corporal punishment of children in Public Schools.

    Statistics. According to estimates from the federal Department of Education (Office of Civil Rights), there were about 223,000 paddlings of students in the 2006-07 school year — down from 457,754 only ten years previously. This shows that the rapid decline of the 1980s and early 1990s, which had levelled off by the middle of the 1990s, has now resumed. Total paddlings were equivalent to only 0.5% of the total US school population. However, this might be an underestimate, since anecdotal evidence suggests that some, maybe many, punishments are not properly recorded.

    In percentage terms the heaviest-paddling states in 2006-07 were still Mississippi (7.5 per cent of students paddled during the year) followed by Arkansas (4.7%), though both these states' figures are gradually trending downwards year on year. Alabama comes third with 4.5% — also in slow decline, despite that state's 1995 explicit legislative encouragement to teachers to use the paddle.

    In absolute terms, however, Texas with its much greater population is the “world capital of paddling”: 49,197 punishments recorded, but this is down from 118,701 only ten years previously, a remarkably sharp drop, completely discrediting various anecdotal suggestions that many Texas school districts had become more enthusiastic about spanking in recent years, rather than less.

    There are many other cultures that truely valued its children. The Lakota (Sioux) term for child literally means….. sacred being.

    In the Maori tongue, a child is called…… gift of the gods.

    Indigenous Australians recall the cultural kidnapping of their children as the…..
    stolen generation.

    The goal of colonial education was to “civilise savages”. This process involved harsh physical punishment and the roots of our past are alive and well in many areas of our world.

    Wonder…. can we see traces of our roots in how we treat children and youth in our educational institutions?

    How do we treat our most troubled children?

    How often do we as adults use coercion to get children to do what we want?

    How much respect is shown toward the “sacred beings” with-in your schools walls?

    Would a visitor see our treatment of our children as the way one would treat a “gift of the gods?”

    be well..mike

  • doug says:

    I believe that most parents do not today — and never have — know how to properly address behavioral problems in their children. How could they? Most parents only raise kids once. Most know only what their parents taught them. They try what their instinct says will work, not what psychology knows will work.

    I know the argument that parental participation is waning. But hasn’t it been waning forever? The vast majority of parents just want their kids to succeed, however small or large that measure of success might be. Most will make some effort if that effort is guided.

    The key to avoiding caged time-out areas in schools is to help parents help the teacher. Perhaps schools should offer parenting classes. Certainly teachers and parents need to work together, not at odds or in ignorance of each others actions, to help a child succeed in the classroom.

  • Tracy says:

    My friend DO wrote me this…

    I agree with you that teachers are overwhelmed and still not beyond taking time for continued education in current research and developments in education.

    Validation, at the same time, would be instrumental in them knowing they are doing terrific jobs. I would challenge the general public as to how many of them would spend 6 hours a day with 25 children under the age of 6, 7 or 8 for a living ? Not just teaching but ALL the other stuff they have to do with these little people to make them well-rounded and well-adjusted.

    A women in my course that I am teaching this past week asked me a situational question re: a group of boys that are somewhat ganging-up on her (after I just spent 1/2 an hour talking about the importance of relationships especially with “guarded” kids). She wanted to know how to work with the gang of boys to win them over and my response was with one boy at a time.

    Well, the room fell silent after that. That spoke loud and clear to me as to how we don’t see kids anymore as individual spirits and souls but how economy and government expects caregivers to deal with the “masses”.

    Breaks my heart for these people who just want to be with these kids and watch over them to ensure they are safe and well for a few hours. And maybe even love ’em a bit and not have the attitude, the strife and the sadness they see regularly.
    Grunt, grumble, snort.

  • Tracy says:

    Lolo – your comment has really made my mind buzz!

    I agree wholeheartedly with your closing statement – there needs to be a stronger connection between home and school. Guaranteed.

    I don’t agree with the statement that school administrators are not an option due to the fact that they are unwilling to suspend students. Mainly because I do not think that suspension is the answer. There are many other things administrators can do without suspension – and most, if not all, would be more effective than suspension ever could be.

    I am uneasy with this sentence, “…I don’t know how these parents let their children reach the point where a teacher feels that they have to cage the child!!” Do you really think that all children with behavioural difficulties at school are a result of poor parenting? What about students with learning disabilites who lack social skills such as the ability to read social situations (ie – to know appropriate ways to work in a group setting such as the classroom)?

    I think that if the adults in a student’s life – parents/caregivers, teachers, and school administration – met on a regular basis to really talk about how to ensure success for a student – a child – in difficulty then we would be living and teaching in very different schools.

  • Lolo says:

    I don’t think it was a great idea to put a child in a cage! As a teacher, my colleagues and I kind of laughed about the idea, but deep down, we know if we can’t have a sense of humor, we might all crack like that!!
    Basically, to sort of answer your question, a teacher might resort to something like that because she feel like she has no other options. Parental support is increasingly waning, and often, the parents will excuse even the most blatant inappropriate behaviours by their children.
    Administration in schools is also not an option, because a lot of principals are unwilling to suspend students with highly disruptive behaviours because the parents object to it.
    As educators, we want to help students and most of us have wonderful ideas on how to do this. But there has to be more support from the home, and as a mother, I don’t know how these parents let their children reach the point where a teacher feels that they have to cage the child!! We need to be more aware and present for our children, and if there is a problem with behaviour, why not have that parent attend their child’s class for a day or two?
    Stories like this come out at least once a year, and I’ve even witnessed similar events where I teach. There has to be a stronger connection between home and school- that’s my solution!!

  • Tracy says:

    I agree LLS – this subject brings up more questions than answers!

    I guess we can’t really provide answers without knowing all sides of the situation, including what kind of support the teachers do have in that school (the school board rep mentioned something about limited access to psychologists…).

  • LLS says:

    I agree that the teacher should not be disciplined, however I am disappointed that the situation came to a point where she felt that she had no other options but to “cage” the child. I am not a teacher, I can only imagine the difficult tasks teachers encounter every day. I don’t know the whole story, but if this child was a problem in class, why was the principal not involved? Is it not prudent to discuss such a drastic measure of discipline with the principal? Or is this common (and therefore accepted practice) in the school? Why were the parents not brought in to discuss the problem? What is the school policy on disruptive children? I seem to have more questions on the subject than answers. I don’t think that we should expect teachers to be able to handle all children without outside support and assistance.

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