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Third grade "Catastrophe Award" sparks passionate KGUN9 viewer debate

This 8 year old student won a Catastrophe Award. Her mother is outraged. The school will not comment.

Third grade "Catastrophe Award" sparks passionate KGUN9 viewer debate

CREATED May 30, 2012

Notes by:  Forrest Carr, KGUN9 News Director

Once upon a time, if you were an elementary school student and didn't do your homework, or you couldn't recite your ABC's, you would get noticed, and not in a good way.  We don't hear so much anymore about teachers forcing kids to sit on a stool in the corner, wearing a pointy "dunce" cap.  But that doesn't mean teachers can't find a way to bring their view of a student's underwhelming performance to the student's attention in front of classmates.

Last week KGUN9 reporter Valerie Cavazos told the story of a third-grader who won a classroom "Catastrophe Award" for failing to keep up with her homework.  The story has gone viral, being cross-linked on various news websites including CNN, ABC's Good Morning America, Yahoo, the Huffington Post and others.   On the ABC/Yahoo, a summary of KGUN9's story racked up a mind-blowing 52,301 comments as of this writing.

The award outraged the little girl's mother.  Valerie's report quoted an expert who said such negative awards are not appropriate. The school principal refused comment to KGUN9 News, but according to the little girl's parent, said the award was a joke.

Is such public finger-wagging, even if it's in good humor, appropriate?

Regardless of where you fall on that question, it's clear that the story has touched a nerve.  Since it aired on KGUN9 News and went live on KGUN9.com, Valerie has received a flood of feedback -- much of it from out of state, including many comments from educators who feel Valerie's story was an unfair attack on the teaching profession. 



The story also has attracted a sizable wave of comments to KGUN9.com and to our Facebook page. We find viewers often are most passionate and articulate when it comes to education issues, and the feedback to story is no exception.

Given the interest, KGUN9 News will be following up this topic in more detail in the near future.  Meanwhile, here's a sample of what many of you have to say.

bnb4vr (via KGUN9.com) -- "That teacher should be fired."

TomKat2006 (via KGUN9.com)  -- "This happened at Bonita Elem. School in Graham County in 1992. My daughter was graduating 8th grade. She came home with two awards like this. She was devastated and humiliated! Several other students received awards like this.... WTH is wrong with teachers like this?"

speichkb (via KGUN9.com):  "It is a "Catastrophe" award for most excuses for not having homework -- I don't think anymore needs to be said, what was she suppose to get, outstanding for not turning in homework?????????????????"

grammaB (via KGUN9.com) - "Obviously this teacher has forgotten what it's like to be a 3rd grader. How would she react if this was her award??? People like this should NOT be teachers! It's no wonder we have children with low self-esteem & insecurities!"

jolly14 (via KGUN9.com) -- "I agree the teacher shouldn't think this is okay to do to a child. Ever. Where were her parents, though?  Why was it so bad the teacher felt the need to point it out?  The parents are a lot to blame for the work not being done.  Poor teaching and poor parenting."

pollybac (via KGUN9.com) -- "The teacher should have been in contact with the parent during the school year to address the failure to turn in homework. And I would suggest a new line on the report card indicating the lack of turning in homework. However, the Award was wrong."

sunsan (via KGUN9.com) -- "The principal should be fired for shrugging her shoulders. She's obviously an uneducated moron that needs to move on to another career!"

GConn (via KGUN9.com) -- "Teachers shouldn't humiliate children!!! If there's a problem with a child, it should be between the teacher and parents, not teacher and child!!!"

SCHOOLOFGETOVERIT (via KGUN9.com) - "What a crock of crap! What was your child doing or NOT doing to earn it? I'm all for these types of awards. Maybe the kids will realize they need to step it up and get better about doing what they're suppose to. GO TEACHERS! ... That teacher did exactly as she should have! Kudos to her!"

navlaw2001 (via KGUN9.com) -- "WOW! You people are something else. The teacher hasn't done anything wrong here with the possible exception of not failing the girl for incomplete work. The mother should be ashamed of her poor parenting skills."

Dobby (via KGUN9.com) -- "Way to go mom for humiliating your daughter in front of the nation.  Was it worth your 15 minutes! Now everyone that reads the articles at Yahoo knows about your daughter’s excuses. Let’s blame it all on the teacher for the humiliations your daughter has suffered over this!"

talonna30 (via KGUN9.com) -- "It is not a joke.  But where was the mother when the child was not doing her homework?  The mother was real quick to call the news and the school once the little girl got the award, but how many times did the teacher call the mother about her daughter not turning in homework?  Parents are always looking for someone to blame."

Choncha (via KGUN9.com) -- "This is cruel, fire this teacher. The happens all the time in schools, a joke like this is not funny.  That teacher should be given a 'best humiliating teacher award.  FIRE FIRE FIRE FIRE FIRE her. We need teachers to help our children be succesful."

ChuckK1965 (via KGUN9.com) -- "All you people who say the teacher should be fired need to wake up and grow a set. Schools can't discipline kids today.  They have no power and if it takes something like this to get through to students, I am all for it !!!"

ckelly5 (via KGUN9.com) -- "My daughter was a student of Ms. Plowman's and I talked with her almost every single day.  Ms. Plowman is a caring & devoted teacher.  When she gave these awards she made sure the students knew it was in fun.  Stop blaming teachers & be a parent!"

Cary Dunkle Bowers (via Facebook) -- "If it were my child I would not only insist on a change of teacher, I would also take it to whoever needs to fix it. Yes I think it is bullying.  The child is in 3rd grade for God's sake."

Felton White (via Facebook) -- "I suppose a teacher can no longer put grades on papers now, so other students can't see they are failing or passing? My concern is with the mother, who is more upset with a school than with their child's inability to do their homework.  It's always easier to blame someone else for your child's failings in today's age, because in the eyes of parents today, their children can do no wrong."

Patty Gamez Nolan (via Facebook) -- "I agree that the mother should be more concerned with the child's education.  But what the teacher did was very wrong, putting a student down in front of the child's peers. Very uncalled for and not at all educational."

Jorge Herrera (via Facebook) -- "I'm sorry but this is the reason we have so many issues with kids these days. Too much power is given to them. You look around these days and you can clearly see how kids have more authority than their own parents. It's sad that teachers sometimes have to play the role as parents and end up raising these kids because parents lack the responsibility or would rather just not deal with disciplining their child. In this case the parents are at fault for not educating their child. If she has time or set time to go and complain to the school about this why not set time to sit down and educate and teach your kid. Don't run away from the responsibility and cry foul when someone try to get your kid's attention."

Rachael C Strom (via Facebook) -- "Wow, people. The kid is in 3rd grade. At that age, it is a parent's responsibility to know what their child has for homework and to make sure the child does that homework. It is not the teacher's job to make sure the parents do their job. What's more, the award' wasn't humiliating; it was cute. People are raising a generation of kids (and their parents) who can't take being called out on a lack of responsibility, even in a light-hearted, joking manner.  She felt bad for being acknowledged as someone who doesn't do their work? That's a good thing; kids don't need to be taught that they can skate under the radar with excuses. It's important to learn that it's not okay to blow off your obligations."

Shawne Albero (via Facebook) -- "Yes, students should do their homework and parents have the ultimate responsibility to make sure it gets done. What is in question here is - why would a teacher choose to mock a child in front of the whole class in order to air her frustration? Why wouldn't she have communicated with the child's parent via documented correspondence - phone calls, letter, email? Adults can make fun of each other - it's OK, we can handle it. An adult making fun of a child? A teacher making fun of a student - especially in a place that is supposed to be safe and welcoming? Not right. End of story, period. A 'joke' in a classroom is meant to be shared by everyone.  This was an attack disguised as a joke. That is what bullies do."

AZ Dad (via KGUN9.com) -- "Why does KGUN9 censor comments?"

AZ Dad - to answer your question, when we catch them, KGUN9 removes inappropriate comments that violate our terms of use.  Discussion threads about school issues sometimes attract comments from bullies.  I don't believe that has been the case for this message thread or that we have deleted any comments. However, you'll find that our Facebook page allows for longer posts.  The comments function on KGUN9.com cuts off anything over three lines.

No doubt this topic will continue to spark debate.  Viewer comments are welcome.  Post them here at the bottom of this story or on our KGUN9 Facebook page.