Coming up at 4:30 and 6 on @ABC11_WTVD: Parents of a Tarboro 5th grader are upset after their son got in trouble for calling a teacher "ma'am" against her wishes. In response, they say the teacher made him write the word repeatedly on a sheet of paper pic.twitter.com/KJghF8rPQb— Michael Perchick (@MichaelPerchick) August 23, 2018
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.
I’m from NY. We werenot brought up to use the word ma’am (we do use Sir or Miss).— Dina Parise (@DPariseRacing) August 24, 2018
Now that I live in the South I use ma’am out of respect for others. Actually, I prefer it now.
Let’s not let #Respect & #Integrity became a thing of the past.
This teacher must be reprimanded.
most children raised in the south or talk to say yes sir and yes ma'am it's considered very disrespectful not to use ma'am when a child is speaking to an adult— lisaskinner (@kaelansmeme) August 26, 2018
Is society so broken down that politeness is considered as rudeness? That teacher should not be teaching! I can’t believe that she was looking for something to throw at this poor kid either! Better #ma'am than another 4 letter word!— C Han (@dozo_yoroshiku) August 25, 2018
My 17 year old daughter did an internship this summer for a major company in the triangle. In her review, she received high remarks on her performance and only one criticism, she was too formal using sir and ma’am to them. It was too much, too polite and too courteous.— La Tanya Brown (@lapiesunshine) August 24, 2018
Wow this woman should not be a teacher - moving the boy to another class isn't the solution to this-. FIRING THAT WOMAN IS.— Facts R Magically Delicious (@Critical_TX) August 24, 2018
A teacher has punished a child for being polite/showing her the respect that her position is due? I understand that some woman are touchy about being called ma'am but in such a context you put aside your insecurities and appreciate the well mannered child. You don't penalize him.— Richiey Hayes (@Richieygrl) August 24, 2018
Wow. This teacher apparently was not taught respect. This is how the child is being raised and SHE thought it was wrong and punished him. So very sad that teacher should NOT be teaching kids.— Melanie Roscoe (@KyssMySass) August 24, 2018
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