Pasco teacher makes students wear dog collar | News
ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. - They are images stirring controversy: photos of students with dog collars around their necks. The collars are historically used on dogs to prevent them from licking wounds after surgery.
Some see the photos as a harmless joke. Others call it an act of humiliation.
One Pasco County parent said, "I was disgusted, very disgusted. Like I said, that's a human, not an animal. You're not spaying or neutering that person."
The outrage stems from a teacher at a Zephyrhills high school, who's accused of using the collars as a form of punishment. Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp nicknamed the collar "The Cone of Shame," mimicking the Disney movie Up.
Some students thought it was funny. Tanisha Medina is one of them. She told 10 News, "She just did it as a joke and said she was gonna punish us by doing it. But, she asked us first and we were all laughing and joking around."
Documents show the students were curious about the collar after seeing the movie, so the teacher brought it in and eventually used it to curb bad behavior for eight kids in the month of April.
But, parents were furious when the pictures showed up on Facebook. Medina said, "All the parents were commenting on it saying she should get fired, and then she got fired."
Cutkomp is now on unpaid suspension and has requested a special hearing to be reinstated. She has not made any statements and has retained legal counsel from an attorney in Clearwater.
"This kind of thing as a punishment for kids...crazy," said longtime psychiatrist Dr. Walter Afield, who has treated countless teenagers in his decades-long career.
He says this kind of treatment belittles and humiliates kids. "You don't do that to teenage kids. You don't do it to any kids, but you sure don't do it to kids who are sensitive in high school," he said. "It's weird."
Some parents and students maintain that Ms. Cutkomp is an excellent teacher and doesn't deserve to be fired. She is known as a "wonderful teacher who helps kids."
However, the Pasco superintendent vehemently disagrees. Heather Fiorentino had harsh words for Cutkomp, saying the teacher "demonstrated lack of good judgment and insight."
Fiorentino is now recommending that the board fire the science teacher. "I am stunned that you would put dog collars on students for any reason," she said.