Education Expert Witness Opines on Teacher’s Excessive Punishment

Michael Talve, CEO

Written by
— Updated on October 13, 2017

This educational leadership case involves a teacher who duct-taped a student’s mouth shut and placed an index card over it for misbehaving during class. Prior to the act in question, the plaintiff, an eleven-year-old student, was repeatedly reprimanded for talking out of turn. His teacher, the defendant in this case, asked the boy not to shout out answers without first raising his hand. After scolding the student on four separate occasions, the teacher took the boy and placed him in a chair in the corner of the classroom. Here, she placed a piece of duct tape over the boy’s mouth and attached a card to the tape which read, “I will not speak out of turn during class!” The student spent the next thirty minutes sitting in the corner of the classroom before being sent to the principal’s office.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Was the teacher’s punishment excessive?

Expert Witness Response

Within their classroom, teachers are typically given a certain amount of leeway when deciding how to handle the various situations that arise. The school should have guidelines on how to properly discipline students and what is considered acceptable punishment when students act out. This usually means sending the child to the principal’s office and, in some cases, contacting the child’s parents. With regards to the circumstances of this case, it appears that the teacher’s actions were excessive, given the risks associated with taping someone’s mouth shut. This could cause breathing issues, in addition to any pain associated with the tape. While these risks may seem minimal, they are largely unnecessary. Teachers are usually instructed to send any child who will not respond to instructions to the principal’s office. By using duct tape on a student, it appears that the teacher went beyond their scope of authority, and may be liable for the modified punishment. A full review of the facts would help illustrate what was done wrong, but the duct tape, alone, seems excessive. I have over thirty years education experience, fifteen in teaching and fifteen in school administration.

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