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Shocking or Brilliant? 11 Examples of Public Shaming As Punishment

Public shaming of kids and teens has been all over the news lately, from a laptop-shooting dad to a mom frustrated by her son’s repeated criminal activity.

When I interviewed parents, educators, and a counselor for a separate post about this, responses were mixed: many parents sympathized with the parents, and found public shaming to be an acceptable, if last resort, form of discipline. Others, including the counselor, said it was both inappropriate and ineffective.

What shocked me, in my research, was the range of sins committed by kids that resulted in public shaming. As I delved deeper, I found that in some cases, I could totally understand the parents’ motives. In other situations, it seemed way over the line.

Is stealing a good reason to shame a teenager? How much do they have to steal for it to be appropriate? What if a grown-up steals? What if a grown-up steals from kids?

How young is too young for this type of punishment? Fifteen? Thirteen? One girl was eight.

Is it okay for kids but not for adults? Or okay for adults but not for kids? A woman convicted of embezzling over $10,000 from a local high school’s booster club was forced to wear a sign that said “I stole from kids” (plus two months’ jail time). Two other women agreed to wear signs saying “I stole from a 9-year-old on her birthday” to avoid jail time after being found guilty of using two Walmart cards they found in the store that the girl had misplaced.

Where should the line be drawn? Take a look at these examples. Which ones make sense to you?

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  • Dad Forces ‘Disrespectful’ Teen to Wear Sign as Punishment for School Suspension 1 of 11
    Dad Forces 'Disrespectful' Teen to Wear Sign as Punishment for School Suspension
    May 2012: North Carolina dad Donnell Bryant made his 15-year-old daughter Quandria carry a sign outside her school after being suspended for being disrespectful to her teachers. Mr. Bryant also had Quandria make a public apology to her teachers. The sign read "I have a bad attitude and am disrespectful to people who try to help me" and was easily visible by students leaving school by bus or on foot.
    (Photo Credit: ABC News)
  • Suspended Fifth Grader Wears Sign: ‘I Was Not Raised This Way’ 2 of 11
    Suspended Fifth Grader Wears Sign: 'I Was Not Raised This Way'
    April 2012: A Miami fifth grader was made to hold a sign reading "I was sent to school to get an education, not to be a bully. I was not raised this way!" after being suspended for planning to bully a fellow student. He had plotted with another student to bully someone, and was suspended for four days. The boy's mom, Tarra Dean, who is a corrections officer, told local news that she had imposed the punishment to make her son more aware of the severity of his actions.
    (Photo Credit: WSVN-7)
  • Police Called as Dad Punishes 8-Year-Old Girl on School Property 3 of 11
    Police Called as Dad Punishes 8-Year-Old Girl on School Property
    April 2012: Officials at High Mount Elementary in Swansea, IL called police when Montrail White attempted to punish his daughter on school grounds by making her wear a sandwich sign reading "I like to steal from others and lie about it."
    "It's his right to discipline his child how he sees fit, within reason," High Mount School Superintendent Michael Brink told NBC News. "Our concern is he's trying to do it in the middle of a very, very busy parking lot while screaming profanities."
    "The little girl was extremely upset, screaming and crying. There were a lot of confused and concerned parents. We had probably 480, 490 kids who saw this morning," said Brink.
    Mr. White denied using profanity, but agreed to move across the street, off school property. Amiyah told reporters she had learned her lesson, and believed her father meant well.
    (Photo Credit: NBC News)
  • Ohio Mom Uses Facebook to Punish Teen 4 of 11
    Ohio Mom Uses Facebook to Punish Teen
    April 2012: Fed up with her 13-year-old daughter Ava's drama and mouthing off on Facebook, Ohio mom Denise Abbott accessed Ava's Facebook account and replaced her profile pic with a photo of the teen sporting a big, red "X" over her mouth. Text added to the photo read "I do not know how to keep my [mouth shut]. I am no longer allowed on Facebook or my phone." A humbled Ava then had to explain that "I was mean to my mom and spoke disrespectful to her in front of my friends." While Denise told NBC News that parents must "adapt your parenting skills with the times," critics called her approach child abuse.
    (Photo Credit: TODAY )
  • ‘I stole from a 9-year-old on her birthday. Don’t steal or this could happen to you.’ 5 of 11
    'I stole from a 9-year-old on her birthday. Don't steal or this could happen to you.'
    March 2012: Two women from Bedford, PA agreed to stand (or sit, apparently) in their town's center carrying an embarrassing sign in order to avoid jail time for theft of lost property. Tina Griekspoor and her mother, Evelyn Border, used Walmart gift cards worth $30 and $50 they found in the store, which had been misplaced by a child.
    "I'm not in the financial situation to fight it," said Ms. Griekspoor, 35, a food service worker. "I have a family I'm supporting. My husband is laid off."
    (Photo Credit: Bedford County District Attorney)
    (via: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
  • Dad: ‘His Cousin Worked Hard to Make That Money’ 6 of 11
    Dad: 'His Cousin Worked Hard to Make That Money'
    March 2012: Aurora, CO dad Joseph Gonzalez made his 12-year-old son Jose carry a sign saying "I am a thief. I took money from a family member" after Jose lifted $100 from his cousin's wallet. "He's a good kid," Mr. Gonzalez told The Denver Post. "This is the first time he's done something like this. I hope it will be the last."
    His cousin worked hard to make that money, Gonzalez said.
    Jose spent several hours of his spring break standing at the street corner across from his father's pawnshop, where Mr. Gonzalez could keep an eye on him — and take him pizza slices. (Photo Credit: The Denver Post)
  • Facebook Parenting for the Troubled Teen 7 of 11
    Facebook Parenting for the Troubled Teen
    February 2012: North Carolina dad Tommy Jordan's YouTube video, called Facebook Parenting for the Troubled Teen went viral in February. In it, the dad reads his daughter's Facebook post whining about her chores, and then empties his .45 into her laptop. Responses to the video were decidedly mixed: some called him "Father of the Year" and some thought he wasn't setting a very level-headed example. (Personally, I was saddened by the loss of a perfectly good laptop.)
    (Photo Credit: YouTube)
  • Stealing Mom’s Debit Card Was the Last Straw 8 of 11
    Stealing Mom's Debit Card Was the Last Straw
    February 2012: After 13-year-old Natia Wade stole her mom's debit card to reactivate a cell phone that had been cut off for punishment, her mom and her aunt had had enough. The Memphis, Tenn. girl was made to carry a sign that read "I steal from my family" on a street corner.
    "Don't get me wrong because you never want to put your child in this situation because they're fragile," Natia's aunt, Lauren Scales told ABC News. "But with all of the things that are going on with kids stealing things, and all the crime being committed in Memphis, she will not be one of them." (Photo Credit: ABC News)
  • Police: ‘Making Your Kid Wear a Sign Is Unconventional, But Not Illegal’ 9 of 11
    Police: 'Making Your Kid Wear a Sign Is Unconventional, But Not Illegal'
    January 2012: Indiana mom Dynesha Lax made her 14-year-old son wear a sign around his neck saying "I lie, I steal, I deal drugs." Despite a laundry list of crimes, the court system only punished him with a fine and community service. When neighbors saw the teen by the side of the road (on Ms. Lax's own property) wearing the sign, they called the police. The Ft. Wayne, Indiana police came out and decided that while making your kid wear a sign may not be conventional, it's also not illegal.
    "I've done therapy with my son," Ms. Lax told ABC News. "I've done positive reinforcement. I've done negative reinforcement. I've done mommy-and-me days. I've even called the police on him," Lax said. "But everything seems to be taken lightly. Nobody is taking seriously that these are serious offenses."
    (Photo Credit: ABC News)
  • Jail Time Plus Humiliation for Woman Who Embezzled $10K From Boosters’ Club 10 of 11
    Jail Time Plus Humiliation for Woman Who Embezzled $10K From Boosters' Club
    July 2011: Charlotte Button, of Aberdeen, Wash., was convicted of embezzling more than $10,000 from the music boosters' club of Aberdeen High School (shown above), reported CBS News. The judge sentenced her to two months of jail time, plus an additional punishment: wearing a sign reading "I stole from kids" for ten days in downtown Aberdeen. (Photo Credit: Joe Mabel)
  • Florida Mom Makes Teen Wear Embarrassinig Sign for Low GPA 11 of 11
    Florida Mom Makes Teen Wear Embarrassinig Sign for Low GPA
    Feb. 2011: Ronda Holder of Tampa, Fla. made her 15-year-old son wear sign indicating that his GPA was a 1.22. As her son stood near a busy street corner looking dejected, the mom told ABC News that she had tried other approaches like taking away her teen's cell phone. "Until he straighten up his grades and gets his education on track, he'll be working this corner." (Photo Credit: ABC News)

Read more from Joslyn at her blog stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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