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This teacher thought it was a good idea to throw a first-grader’s shoes in the trash

School is back in session across most of the country, and that means kids are easing back into the routine of rules and homework after a long summer vacation. It can be a tough transition, especially for the youngest kids in school, who might have a hard time sitting still, paying attention and doing everything that’s required in class. It’s not surprising when teachers get stressed out, but one South Carolina teacher is under investigation after she dealt with a student’s behavior issues in a way that was totally appalling.

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Chartrese Edwards is mom to 6-year-old Taraji, and says her daughter was humiliated when her first-grade teacher took her shoes away from her and threw them in the trash. The mom became aware of the incident after her daughter refused to wear those shoes to class again. The shaken 6-year-old said the strap was hurting her foot and the teacher told her several times to stop touching it. When she didn’t, the teacher threw her shoes away and made her walk around barefoot, causing her classmates to tease and laugh at her.

The teacher later allowed Taraji to retrieve her shoes from the trash, but the harsh punishment left both the child and her mom understandably upset. The teacher remains adamant that she did nothing wrong, but school administrators have launched a full investigation. In the meantime, Taraji has been assigned a homebound teacher and her mom is trying to come up with funds to send her to a private school.

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It’s normal for young kids to need a few reminders of how to behave at school, but humiliation and degradation aren’t discipline tactics, and this teacher was completely out of line. There’s nothing abnormal about a 6-year-old fidgeting, especially when her shoes are bothering her. Perhaps the teacher could’ve called her mom or sent a note home. Maybe the nurse could’ve supplied a Band-Aid that would’ve helped the shoes stop poking the girl’s feet long enough for her to get through the day. Almost anything would’ve been better than throwing the girl’s shoes in the trash.

As parents, we rely on teachers to treat our kids with compassion and respect. Obviously, they’re going to have some behavioral slip-ups — every kid does. But that’s why schools have disciplinary policies in place. It’s not OK to invent and carry out a punishment that strips a child of their dignity and leaves them vulnerable to ridicule from their peers.

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Children are people, and they spend some of the most impressionable years of their lives in the care of teachers at school. Things that happen in first grade can shape the way they see themselves and the way they see the world. It doesn’t all need to be sunflowers and rainbows, but the experience of being in school certainly shouldn’t be degrading. We should treat kids with the same kindness and respect we’d extend to other adults, and educators who don’t understand that have no place at the front of a classroom.

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