Teacher Punishes Fifth Grader For Calling Her ‘Ma’am’

A fifth-grader was punished for using the respectful term "ma'am" to address his teacher, prompting his parents to have him moved from her classroom.

A fifth-grader thought he was being polite by using the word “ma’am” to address his teacher. Unfortunately, she didn't agree and ultimately punished him for it.

Tamarion Wilson, a 10-year-old boy from North Carolina, called his North East Carolina Preparatory School teacher “ma’am” after she told him not to use that term when talking to her. As punishment, she ordered him to write the word “ma’am” four times on each line of a piece of paper. He then had to have the paper signed by one of his parents.

When Wilson got home, his mother, Teretha Wilson, said she knew right away there was something wrong.

After he presented her the paper and told her the story, she was horrified at how her son was treated, especially because Wilson and her husband, McArthur Bryant, said that they teach their children to use “sir” and “ma’am” out of respect.

The parents also complained that this incident took time away from the child’s learning experience because the teacher forced him to complete the punishment in class. In addition, Wilson told reporters that her son had been hospitalized the month prior to the incident for seizure-related problems that included memory loss and hallucinations. However, the teacher wasn't aware of that.

"It wasn't right. It wasn't professional. As a teacher, it wasn't appropriate. And I asked her why she thought it was OK to do that," Wilson said.

The teacher reportedly told the concerned parent that the punishment wasn’t serious. Still, Wilson and Bryant were not happy, returning the signed sheet along with a second sheet on which the boy wrote the definition of the word “ma’am.”

After meeting with the teacher and the principal, Wilson requested her son be moved to a different classroom. Her request was granted.

Still, the boy’s parents are worried other kids will have to go through the same.

"If it happened to my son, I'm pretty sure if not a week, a day, a month, a year, it will occur to somebody else's child," Bryant said.

In a statement, the school said that this “personnel matter” was “handled appropriately by the K-7 principal.”

On social media, people agreed that using "ma'am" is obviously a sign of respect.

Regardless of how the school handled the incident or what happens next, allowing a teacher to punish a student for being polite in the first place speaks volumes about the state of our education system. After all, if the teacher couldn't recognize that the word "ma'am" was being used in a respectful manner, she might have chosen the wrong profession. 

Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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