Teens made to apologize on hands, knees

WATERFORD -- Waterford High School's principal reportedly disciplined two freshmen for fighting by having them get on their hands and knees, look at each other through a chair, apologize to each other and promise their behavior would end.

It worked, according to one of the boys who made the pledge after the altercation last week.

It also made his mother furious.

Penny Watson said she was shocked when her son told her of the punishment.

"I can understand having them stand up like men, apologize and shake hands," she said.

"I'm past confusion. Now I'm angry."

The Bee is not naming the 15-year-old.

None of the parents of the students involved had filed a complaint as of Friday, but Watson said she intends to.

"I feel like it was degrading. This guy needs to be brought down to earth," Watson said of Principal Don Davis.

Waterford School District Superintendent Howard Cohen said Friday he is looking into the matter, and he would not say whether he thought such discipline was appropriate.

"We don't make assumptions about things. We check out our facts," Cohen said.

District officials called Watson and left a message on her answering machine. She was asked to come to the district office so Cohen could apologize on behalf of the district. She said she has not returned the call.

Cohen was asked how the district will proceed if officials determine the discipline was as described.

"We have personnel policies and board policies. We'd follow those policies," Cohen said.

Those policies do not say whether such punishment is appropriate, or how to deal with someone who uses inappropriate punishment.

As Cohen did, Davis said he couldn't comment on the personnel matter.

"All principals have to make judgment calls on how they are going to handle discipline and what's in the best interest of students," he said. "Things like this are going to happen from time to time. That's why we have a complaint process in place."

Watson said she spoke with Davis after her son called her from school Sept. 21 to tell her what had happened. She said he confirmed her son's story about the punishment and told her he could have suspended her son but opted for what he felt was a lighter punishment.

"I would have rather he suspended my son," Watson said.

"I don't think they ever would've told me he'd been in trouble or how he was punished," she said. "This was a big learning experience for my son, that not everything adults do is correct."

The two boys punished that day have a history of confrontation, Watson's son said. This was the first time they'd gotten in trouble at the high school and the first time Watson's son met the principal.

"I didn't even know his name," he said.

Attempts to contact the other teen and his family were unsuccessful.

Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at 578-2382 or ehightower@modbee.com.

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