4th-graders 'marked' for falling short in reading
DECLO, Idaho — A fourth-grade teacher in southern Idaho is being criticized for having her students use permanent markers to draw on the faces of classmates who failed to meet reading goals.
Some parents and administrators say the punishments given to nine students in Summer Larsen's class were inappropriate and left the children feeling shamed.
Cindy Hurst said recently her 10-year-old son came home from school Nov. 5 with his entire face — including his eyelids — scribbled on with green, red and purple markers.
“He was humiliated. He hung his head and wanted to go wash his face,” Hurst told The Times-News of Twin Falls. “He knows he's a slow reader. Now he thinks he should be punished for it.”
Larsen, who has taught at the school for six years, did not respond to requests for comment. Cassia County School District Superintendent Gaylen Smyer confirmed what took place in her classroom, though he did not name Larsen.
The students were allowed to choose their own incentive to meet the reading goal, but instead of a reward, the class chose a punishment: Students who failed to meet the goal could either stay inside at recess until it was met, or have their faces written on by classmates who met the goals.
Nine students did not meet the goals, the paper reported on Friday. Three chose to forgo recess, and the six others chose to have their faces marked.
“Although all the students in the class agreed to the incentive, once it occurred, it was not so well-received. Nor should it have been,” Smyer said.
LeRoy Robinson, who has two grandchildren who had their faces marked for failing to meet the goals, said the punishment was bullying. The children's faces were marked in the morning, and they were told to leave it on all day but to wash it off before they went home, Robinson said.
“Other kids were asking them about it and laughing at them,” he said.
Robinson's wife, Karla Robinson, said the ink was hard to wash away and most kids could not get it off their faces, leaving them embarrassed, especially when they had to ride the bus home with junior high and high school students.
Some parents were supportive, however.
Karla Christensen, whose daughter met Larsen's reading goals, said the teacher was just trying to motivate students.