Sunday, May 20, 2018
Education

'Cone of shame' teacher gets fresh start at Pasco Middle

DADE CITY — Zephyrhills High School science teacher Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp won't lose her job over allegations last spring that she punished misbehaving students by making them wear a "cone of shame" dog collar.

She'll transfer to Pasco Middle School instead.

"She is a certified science teacher, and we've had a very difficult time finding them," Pasco Middle principal Kim Anderson said. "I am very excited that she is going to have this new opportunity. … She starts on Monday and she's excited."

Neither Bailey-Cutkomp nor her lawyer, Mark Herdman, returned calls for comment.

Kevin Shibley, Pasco County school district director of employee relations, confirmed that the district had reached an agreement to allow Bailey-Cutkomp, 48, to keep her job. Because she had not officially signed the document, Shibley said he would not release the conditions.

He also would not explain the circumstances that led superintendent Heather Fiorentino to rescind her recommendation to fire Bailey-Cutkomp.

Back in April, Fiorentino wrote in a termination letter stating that Bailey-Cutkomp's actions showed "extremely poor judgment" and raised grave concerns about her professionalism.

"I am stunned that you would put dog collars on students for any reason," Fiorentino wrote.

Fiorentino did not immediately return a call for comment.

The School Board had been scheduled to hear Bailey-Cutkomp's appeal of her dismissal on July 23. Both sides agreed to call off that hearing, saying they were near a deal that would eliminate the need.

They never rescheduled the session.

United School Employees of Pasco president Lynne Webb said the settlement, which she had not seen, sounded like a common-sense response to Bailey-Cutkomp's action when reviewed after time passed.

"I can only say what I have believed all along, which is that this was an overreach," Webb said of the proposed firing. "Sometimes as more information comes out and time goes on, one realizes it wasn't as egregious as one first thought. I'd like to think the district and superintendent reflected upon the actual circumstances … and the teacher's past performance and determined this was not a firing offense."

According to district records, Bailey-Cutkomp showed the Pixar animated movie Up to students on the Friday before spring break, expecting attendance to be low. In the movie, the character Dug (a dog) wears the "cone of shame" as a punishment for being disobedient.

Some of her students asked Bailey-Cutkomp, who worked in a veterinary office at one point, about the cone — which is commonly used to prevent dogs from licking their wounds. She brought one into class and used it on at least eight students.

"When asked how you selected students to wear the collar, you explained that you initially used it to redirect student behavior," Fiorentino wrote. "You also stated that some students requested to wear the collar to see how difficult it was to eat and move around while wearing it. Finally, you stated that you gave some students the option of either wearing the collar or sitting at the tardy table when they arrived late to your class."

She stopped using the cone only after a parent complained, Fiorentino wrote. The school launched an investigation, which ultimately led to Bailey-Cutkomp's unpaid suspension until the issue could be resolved.

When the suspension went to the School Board for approval, her story became public and quickly went viral.

National media including Fox, CNN and even some entertainment news sites reported on the situation.

Some of the teacher's colleagues defended her, saying Bailey-Cutkomp is a good teacher. At least one student told a media outlet that the "cone of shame" punishments were really a joke.

Bailey-Cutkomp has not spoken publicly about the accusations.

Principal Anderson said she did not go over the details with Bailey-Cutkomp while hiring her: "We just said, 'Let's put the past behind us and look forward to a great school year.' "

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Comments
At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

SANTA FE, Texas - They gathered here by the dozens Friday evening, wearing their school colors, T-shirts that said "Texas Tough," while huddling under the shade of a gaggle of pine trees, not 11 hours after the first shots were fired.They came to pra...
Published: 05/19/18
‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

Paige Curry tried to keep calm Friday morning as a gunman tore through her Santa Fe High School, eventually killing 10 people and injuring another 10. The 17-year-old watched as a girl nearby panicked. Curry, herself terrified, considered running out...
Published: 05/19/18
Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Before they could get away, we asked the top graduates at Pinellas County’s private schools to write a Twitter-length paragraph about what’s on their mind. We suggested they reflect on the past or the future, or talk about the people who helped them ...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Florida teacher accused of drowning raccoons in class placed on leave

Florida teacher accused of drowning raccoons in class placed on leave

A Florida teacher was placed on administrative leave after school officials were told that he had students help him drown wild raccoons during class.A 14-second video published by CBS affiliate WKMG showed a group of students filling a tub of water u...
Published: 05/17/18
The US spends less on children than almost any other developed nation

The US spends less on children than almost any other developed nation

The federal government now spends less than it did about 30 years ago on some of the country’s poorest children, the result of cuts to federal welfare programs, according to a new research paper.In 1990, the government spent about $8,700 on every chi...
Published: 05/17/18
Two gifts on graduation day: white Crocs, and a lesson that ‘it can’t hurt to ask’

Two gifts on graduation day: white Crocs, and a lesson that ‘it can’t hurt to ask’

ST. PETERSBURG — Sarah Agee and her friends never pictured themselves wearing Crocs to their graduation. But the foam shoes were comfortable, offered better footing than heels, and now the Seminole High seniors had a story to tell.It all started a li...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Romano: Instead of securing schools, lawmakers saved themselves

Romano: Instead of securing schools, lawmakers saved themselves

I said it two months ago, and it’s only become more obvious since then:The bipartisan school safety proposal passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor had more to do with protecting the rear ends of politicians than the lives of students.I...
Published: 05/16/18
High school graduations begin today across Tampa Bay

High school graduations begin today across Tampa Bay

Put on your gowns. Get in line. Cue Pomp and Circumstance .Tampa Bay’s high school graduation season begins in earnest today, with ceremonies for four schools planned at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Lakewood High will go first at 8:30 a.m., fol...
Published: 05/16/18