ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. (CBS Tampa/AP) — A high school science teacher faces dismissal amid allegations that she used a “cone of shame” dog collar to discipline students.
Pasco County schools superintendent Heather Fiorentino has recommended firing 47-year-old Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp for putting a dog collar on at least eight of her ninth graders on two days in April.
The collar was reportedly the type used to prevent animals from licking themselves after surgery. “Cone of shame” is a reference to the 2009 animated film “Up,” which Bailey-Cutkomp had previously shown her students.
Zephyrhills High administrators learned of the teacher’s actions after seeing the students’ photos on Facebook. Parents tipped off the school.
“I am stunned that you would put dog collars on students for any reason,” Fiorentino said in a letter to Bailey-Cutkomp that was obtained by the Tampa Bay Times. “I am very concerned that you used this collar to punish and embarrass students in front of their peers.”
Bailey-Cutkomp is accused of violating district and state ethics rules. She has requested a hearing before the School Board to appeal the superintendent’s decision. She is no longer in the classroom while waiting for a date to be set.
Fiorentino outlined in a letter her details of her recommendation. She had a problem with Bailey-Cutkomp showing the movie because it was not included in her approved lesson plan.
In the movie, a dog character wears the cone as a punishment. Bailey-Cutkomp, who has experience in the veterinary field, brought in a cone to show the students.
Bailey-Cutkomp explained to the superintendent that the students wanted to see what it was like for a dog to eat or drink with the collar on and asked to wear the collar.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, one student, whose name was not identified, said in a written statement: “I was in second period. I was drinking soda, and she said, ‘Do I have to put the cone on you?’ I didn’t say anything and she put it on me.”
A mother commented on Facebook that making students wear this collar was inappropriate. Bailey-Cutkomp stopped using the collar after she was aware of these complaints. She later added that it was “probably” a bad idea to put the collar on the students.
Many of Bailey-Cutkomp’s colleagues are supporting her by writing letters to the School Board in her defense.
“Whatever mistake Ms. Bailey-Cutkomp made, it was a mistake that I doubt she will make again,” ninth-grade teacher James Washington told the Times. “Furthermore, what I have witnessed at ZHS certainly makes me believe that she has much to offer the students.”
A telephone message left for Bailey-Cutkomp by The Associated Press wasn’t immediately returned.
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)