School incident spurs debate in Waterford

WATERFORD -- Waterford High School was buzzing Monday with talk about Principal Don Davis's discipline of two freshmen last month.

Since media highlighted an allegation that Davis reprimanded a couple of quarreling students by having them get on their hands and knees, look at each other through a chair, apologize and promise their tit-for-tat behavior would stop, students have been asking themselves which they'd prefer: suspension or this unconventional form of punishment.

"It's pretty unusual, but I'd rather not have gotten suspended," said freshman Daniel Davis, 15.

"It's disrespectful," junior Roy Lester, 16, said. "I'd rather be suspended."

Were he in the principal's position, freshman Dylan Mull, 14, said he also would have had the students apologize to each other, "but not through a chair. That's kind of silly," Mull said.

Maybe absurdity was the point, said Waterford resident Jeff Ganoe, 33.

"Doing that would make their silly argument seem even sillier," he said.

Penny Watson, one of the boys' mothers, said getting on the ground was degrading, and they should have been made to shake hands standing up like men.

School district officials are still looking into the matter. They wouldn't comment on it directly except to say one of the boys' mothers wants to talk it over with district officials, said Superintendent Howard Cohen.

Davis also has said he cannot comment on personnel matters.

Some questions unanswered

The hushed treatment of the situation leaves questions unanswered, and rumors milling. It's unclear whether Davis also was on the floor. Cohen wouldn't say whether Davis gave students the choice of suspension or this discipline. Was the chair placed between the students as part of the discipline, or did it just happen to be there?

The specifics mean less to some than others.

"They stopped fighting. Wasn't that the point?" said Veronica Diaz, 51, of Waterford.

Robert Pena, 60, who works at a Waterford barber shop, figures we all need to be brought to our knees sometimes.

"People need to be humbled a little bit to see their wrongdoing. I don't know if that was exactly the right call, but it made them think," he said.

Getting on the floor isn't going to teach anyone anything, said Minnie Barnes, 64, of Waterford.

"I think it's terrible. I'm not saying they didn't need discipline, just not like that," she said.

Cohen said people would be remiss to draw conclusions about Davis' performance as a principal from hearsay of one disciplinary action.

"He moved this high school when it opened five years ago from performing in the bottom of the county (on a state standardized test) to the highest in five counties," Cohen said. "I can't speak to this event, but when you stand back and look at everything he's done ...

"I honestly don't think he had any ill intent," Cohen said. "We want to make sure what happens is all around fair and equitable."

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

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