Can Self Expression Seriously Ruin Your Child’s Health?

Via on Jan 22, 2011

So…I guess I am writing this on behalf of my daughter, who at the age of 12 years decided to get her nose pierced—with my total consent.

We come from an Indian background and I acknowledge the fact that my daughter is an individual, like we all are, and is keen to express herself…whether that’s through wearing a particular type of clothing or having the odd piercing.

After visiting India over the past few weeks Maya (my daughter) returned to school with a 1mm nose stud in her nose (you’re all aware that this isn’t too big, right?). She was inappropriately taken aside and told that such piercings were not appropriate in school and that she was required to wear a band aid over the top of the stud until the hole had healed and after a few weeks she must remove the stud.

I would like to add that there are two other children in the school who wear nose studs. One of those children has a pass (can you believe) to wear hers. There a number of children with hair resembling all the colours of the rainbow, but none of this is taken into account.

So without going into to much personal detail I’d like to pose a few questions :

  • Would wearing a nose stud seriously ruin a child’s education?
  • Why is there one rule for one and one rule for another?
  • When a child wishes to acknowledge their roots should that not be praised and encouraged?
  • Does school dampen our children’s creativity?
  • Should school not look into more serious issues such as bullying as a major priority?

Please leave any comments about your views and your own experiences.

Below is a wonderful video by Ken Robinson looking into whether school really does kill our children’s creativity, I felt the need to share it with you all. So when you have a spare 20 minutes take a look and once again let me know what you think.

Have a great day and Namaste:)

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About Indra Singh

Indra Singh loves to write anything from Yoga Articles to Creative Writing works. She is a full time mother and works predominantly in the world of addiction therapy, helping individuals with their journey through recovery by assisting them with Yoga techniques to help support their daily lives. She runs general classes and workshops too and is an experienced Children's Yoga teacher. She's studied Aura Soma, reflexology, aromatherapy and is heavily into flower essences and vibrational healing. She also loves to knit. For more about Indra, visit her website, Facebook or Twitter.

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49 Responses to “Can Self Expression Seriously Ruin Your Child’s Health?”

  1. resourcetherapy says:

    I would be inclined to go to a Civil Liberties lawyer and help her fight this. Her body is hers, not theirs. I would gently inform the school system that unless they allow your daughter to honor her roots, you will sue them for discrimination. That alone should save the cost and trouble of finding a lawyer. My own experience is that calling discrimination for what it is, is generally enough to help the school rethink their policies. Meanwhile, try to hold the school officials in a white light and send them love and compassion. Do not become angry in their presence, simply keep stating that it is your daughter's right to do to her body something that honors her roots. If they cannot soften, and who is to say why that would be, bring in a lawyer. You should be able to find one who will support you for a percentage of the damages and the joy of supporting a good cause. Best good wishes to you and her.

  2. Alamgir says:

    Hi Indra, just read your article and it too made me question the education system.
    What is the purpose of education? Is it about conformity or using the best of the skills taught to you to make a better person in your own way? These two questions are moot points.
    There are stories about people who have done their own thing and achieved far more success and happiness after having left the education system as it stiffled them.
    What about those people who home school their own kids.. they shown to be far more intelligent because whilst they may not be studying the whole national curriculum they are being encouraged to follow what they want to follow.
    Although the education system in Asia- Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and India does provide a sound base for literacy and numeracy as learning is done by rote and focus is more bias towards the more academic subjects what does it produce? Office workers who seem to be unhappy!
    .

  3. Alamgir says:

    In regards to your questions let me give my tuppence worth
    Would wearing a nose stud seriously ruin a child’s education?
    No is there any link to a nose stud affecting a students study of French verbs?No
    Why is there one rule for one and one rule for another? -Its the inequality of society which in this case can be seen through the microcosm of school..
    When a child wishes to acknowledge their roots should that not be praised and encouraged? Yes it should.School is meant to develop and nuture INDIVIDUALS and not churn out successful exam statistics

    Does school dampen our children’s creativity? Yes because not much emphasis is placed on the non core subjects.As Ken says in this video.Maths is equally as important as dance
    Should school not look into more serious issues such as bullying as a major priority? Schools need to weigh up the pros and cons of each individual issue and prioritise on problems which could cause long term hurt- such as bullying.Having a noise pierced is not a long term problem.

  4. Alamgir says:

    Thank you for sharing you and your daughter Maya's experience on this.Whilst it has happened it is good that you have brought this to our attention as this is an issue which needs to be addressed.
    I hope that I have not rambled on but I too am passionate about this topic

  5. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alamgir Ahmed, Red Fox. Red Fox said: Can Self Expression Seriously Ruin Your Child’s Health? http://bit.ly/fRkGTJ [...]

  6. indra singh says:

    resourcetherapy:sound advice and like many i spent the majority of school life being cloned and 30+years trying to got out of it and i have a real thing about people being who they are.
    thank you for this
    also the video speaks volumes

  7. indra singh says:

    Thank you Alamgir
    great words of wisdom

  8. indrasingh says:

    getting all your views is really important

  9. smallmercy says:

    Education should allow creativity with certain boundaries. The older you get the more "free" you are allowed to become such as supervised play time when you are 5 but obviously not when you are ten!
    There is no proven link with conformity- be it a standard dress code, hairstyle and academic excellence.
    In my high school ( a boys school)you were allowed to wear earrings, dye your hair but adhere to a uniform code of dark troussers, blazer and tie and this was across the board until the 6th form.
    Some guys had flat tops( rememeber them!), pony tails and dread locks.In no way were these people told to change.
    Creativity =expression= growth and if this is not allowed then what is the education system trying to achieve?
    Indra agan you have brought to the fore a topic which tends to be brushed aside conviently… I salute you for bringing it to our attention.
    Much love light and blessings X

  10. Padma Kadag says:

    Like everything else there are so many levels to this. I raised two children, boy and girl. There is one aspect to your child being admonished for her appearance and that is the effect it has on her perception that the world will not always agree with her. Which is a good thing. You as the parent can defend her and give her the impression that this is a great injustice or you can also let her see the nature of the situation just as it is. Is this really so important to her? Let her decide. Is she suffering or are you as her parent? In most cases the parent feels much stronger about the perceived injustice than the child does. In regard to creativity…unless your child is enrolled in Montessorri or Waldorf their creativity will have to flourish outside of class. I would also be suspicious of "applied structured creativity" in these private institutions. My children attended public schools and their creativity is now soaring in their 20's.

  11. indrasingh says:

    small mercy thank you
    im liking you school already:)

  12. Joe Sparks says:

    Students are basically very eager to learn, but have already been hurt and made discouraged about themselves in many ways, have been trained to be antagonistic to each other, to compete instead of cooperate, and to treat each other with invalidation and violence. Teachers have been conditioned to believe that submission, "composure" and "order" are the first requirements for their classrooms. They, in general, will be pulled to "teach" students in the same ways that they were mistaught. Parents are under such heavy pressure in their lives as to feel required to support the same policies being applied to their children as the ones that interfered with their own learning when they were young. As a result of all these destructive, patterned policies which are acting on all the people who are involved in schools, the schools tend to function more and more poorly or desperately, and their misfunctioning is one of the sharpest indications of the imminent collapse of the oppressive society.

  13. Emily says:

    Thank you for bringing this out on EJ!!! My husband and I both strongly promote self expression, especially in our children. Our five year old has hair so long he can tuck it behind his ears. We love it, but he has long hair because he asked us if he could grow it out! Other parents and some teachers snicker and make remarks asking if he's a girl, when you know they are pretending. Taking away self expression is taking something so beautiful from a child, we want them to give their all in everything they do, but how can they without their own identity! When I was in 9th grade my parents took me to get my eyebrow pierced for my birthday, they lied and said I was turning 16 :) obviously full supporters of self expression as well. But when I went to school the next day I was sent to the office by my history teacher for disrupting his lesson! apparently he missed the fact that my best friend sitting next to me looked like a troll doll with her bright pink hair! Luckily my principal was entirely supportive and told the teacher to kiss off in a nice way :)

  14. Emily says:

    Forcing a child to look and act the same as everyone else is setting them up for failure in my opinion. A child gains so much in their experience with creativity, why some educators take that away is beyond me.

  15. Mat Hill says:

    Hi Indra,
    Give em hell (or whatever your culturally appropriate equivalent is!). Of course they have a right to expect people to accept their version of a social contract and keep to their rules. Regardless of whether the rules are all right, it is something you tacitly accepted when you enrolled Maya in the school. But the lack of cultural sensitivity and double standards are unacceptable.

    As far as this being using adult criteria to judge children’s values, however, of course we all use adult value systems with our children and others, and by 8-9, when most linguistic functions of the brain have stabilised, but before 14-15 when the logical functions start to do so is an important time for accustoming your child to the aspects of adult society that you agree with and sensible ways of questioning those you don’t… and again, these are your value judgments. (Incidentally, quite some research has suggested that children’s moral compasses are already set mostly by the age of 3-4, so I suspect she’s already sorted there!)

    The only other thing I’d be interested in is how inserting a piece of metal in your body could affect chakras and energy flow: one of my teachers (eastern) was dead set against piercings for that reason. Anecdotally, there seem to be millions of well-adjusted people with piercings… But who knows, maybe they’re really responsible for the downfall of civilisation!

    So, lawyers, new school, or at least an extended chat with the teachers. Oh, and if this is the UK, watch that the Daily Mail aren’t all over the discrimination aspect or it may become the latest cause célèbre for the EDL.

  16. Mat Hill says:

    Oops. That was long.

  17. indrasingh says:

    loving your comments
    so good to hear you views
    thank you so so much

    • Emily says:

      Perhaps you could form a discussion/ meeting with the school board and possibly other parents, request that you show Sir Ken's video? Going through a law suit doesn't teach anyone anything but bullying to get your own way. I think that if you could set this up and share your view, you may open some eyes of these educators. But most importantly you will be showing your daughter a wonderful technique in seeking resolution! Self identity is so important in all ages, creative expression is lifeless without it.

  18. Brigida says:

    Sue them, you would win, and change school if she likes that idea. They are crazy…

  19. *jj* says:

    Now I want to pierce my nose in support of your daughter.

  20. catlyn777 says:

    "Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. – Albert Einstein

  21. marianne says:

    As a middle school teacher, the issue of creativity vs school rules is something that arises often. I have my nose pierced and this is not a problem at my school. Please know the majority of rules are in place to ensure students have a quality learning environment, not to force them into a certain standard of conformity. Public schools have a host of social elements with which to deal that simply would never arise in a home school situation. They have to draw a line somewhere. Simply because a student is not allowed to wear a certain piece of clothing does not equate to diminished individuality. Responsibility also falls upon both teachers and parents to teach their students to be critical thinkers. Having to conform to certain rules/norms occurs in every facet of society that we encounter on a daily basis; being able to evaluatee situations for oneself and determine necessitated action is a basic living skill.

  22. marianne says:

    The issue of public school stifling creativity is difficult, especially in the current economic situation of most school districts. With millions of dollars cut over the past several years from budgets, school districts have to prioritize and, in the end, reading, writing, and math will always be identified as more important than non core subjects. Class sizes are increasing, while staff numbers diminish. Public education is in a state of crisis–we can all identify negatives and how we think it would be better, yet, sadly, we can only be agents of change to an extent. For me, I can control what occurs in my classroom. This is a large part of the influx of charter schools and diversified school pedagogy–both teacher and parent frustration over the current state of education. Yet, if we all keep identifying the negatives and simply looking for alternatives, where does that leave us (and the millions of children still in public education).

    sorry for the long responses, but this is a very complex issue

  23. indrasingh says:

    jj I am with you there… maybe i should get the otherside done:)

    Marianne one of my issues with this is that other people have their piercing in and wear them in school yet my daughter cant, does this make sense??i find this quite disturbing.
    piercing is similar to colouring your hair pink, it can be seen(even more so)however THAT seems to be ok on only gets a slap on the hand and a 'please can you tie your hair back'

  24. Karine says:

    If all else fails, you could always get your daughter a "retainer" type of jewelry — they are either clear or flesh colored and the part that sits outside of the nostril is a flat disc. They are barely visible at all and this way she doesn't have to abandon her piercing. Once it is completely healed, she can swtich to nice jewelry on weekends and holidays.

    Of course, that wouldn't be my first choice – I agree with the very first post up there by ressourcetherapy and truly hope for Maya that this can be resolved without her having to hide who she truly is.

  25. Zarathustra says:

    I actually had an experience similar to this back in high school. I'm of Greek descent and I am descended from subjects of the Ottoman Empire; I thought to honour my heritage, I'd wear a fez to my Homecoming dance (fezes were actually the universal male garb in the Ottoman Empire; not only Muslims wore them). However, they refused to let me in unless I removed my fez and put it away in my locker. They said they weren't allowing hats; however, the man who told me I could not wear a hat was wearing a hat, other people had been let in with their hats, and the previous year, at the very same dance I had worn a different hat with no trouble. I was absolutely horrified by this…I had no idea why they would not let me wear a fez. It's not like I was wearing one of those German World War I helmets with the spike. High school is becoming more and more like a prison for lonely radical intellectuals such as myself.

  26. Pat Moore says:

    Hi Indra,
    We met last year at Granville Cousins' workshop. Small world!
    The thing that seems the oddest about the incident is the different standards being applied to the kids. I'm not sure what their reasoning is but I do recall that the piercing shop in town was pretty busy on the weekend we were there for my daughter's cartilage piercing. And many were students (albeit most of them over 16) but they still have school to attend, don't they? I agree this sort of self expression is not harmful. As an American, I do notice however that American kids are much more pierced and tattooed than the British kids in N. Yorks. And it makes me wonder how they will feel themselves "expressed" in a couple of decades.
    I'm back in Denver and heard from my Denver yoga teacher that she has a student who is endeavouring to remove, to the tune of $14,000, the tattoos she had previously had done. So the other side of the coin is that we do change over time: we are both different and the same so sometimes the method of expression can get in the way.
    Thanks for the post and it's great to "see" you again!

  27. Shanti Mayee says:

    Great post, Indra! Sir Ken Robinson is one of my favorites too.
    When I was born in Kansas back in the '50s, my Puerto Rican parents asked to have my ears pierced at the hospital shortly after my birth, which was the tradition they were accustomed to in Puerto Rico. My grandparents had sent a beautiful little pair of gold earrings, but I never wore them until as a teenager I wanted my ears pierced, and even then I made waves at school. The hospital personnel made my parents feel like primitive barbarians for even thinking of such a thing.

    It saddens me to hear that such nonsense continues years later, even as the culture has grown so diverse. I mean, really. How pathetic that educators are wasting time on such superficial issues while the shortage of quality, caring learning environments reaches alarming levels.
    Wishing you and Maya a positive and happy resolution… Namaste.

  28. Cheryl says:

    Is their a yoga program in your daughter's school? :) That should be the first priority so they can Open to Grace before getting so caught up in the small details.

  29. indrasingh says:

    I went to teach Yoga at a school today
    the attitude of the school was open friendly and welcoming. The children encouraged to express themselves
    Everyone was smiling
    was wonderful to see after the above.

    Not only that all the walls were painted a beautiful green….Heart chakra was certainly open there

  30. indrasingh says:

    Cheryl

    I have fought to teach there and nope they wont acknowledge it at all, i gave up.
    although it would be a great break through im sorry to say the catholics religion seems to have an issue with Yoga esp here in th uk

  31. indrasingh says:

    Pat thank you
    great advice

    I am seriously tattooed, tattoos are an expression on life
    where you have been
    what you have done

    in my eyes NOT to be removed, their part of what you have been through.
    society wrongly dictates how you should be, whether you work in an office or wherever….
    sad.

  32. fabwithniceyes says:

    Clearly your childs school seems to be one where there seems not to be a surpression of individuality but supression or victimisation of certain individuals and it seems in this case your daughter.If rules are created they need to be obeyed by ALL not a certain number of people. If other students are allowed to dye their hair and wear nose studs why are they single- outing ( does such a word exist??) your daughter?
    The knock on effect is this could result in your child feeling surpressed and therefore afraid to do what she feels in later life.
    Creativity is important both in the academic sense but as part of the academic experience.. free to think, free to debate.
    We have the Madrassas in Iran where theological debate is encouraged much like in ancient Greece but freedom of expression is supressed.
    its a Catch 22 situation

  33. David Sye says:

    Right On,. Indra,.this situation really needs this debate,. and i would recommend an even bigger public forum(so well done for hauling this teacher,s ass out into broad daylight) because a loose cannon like this will carry on creating even more irreparable psychological damage for god knows ,how many more pupils!!!! My first thought is that this fool ,and his misconduct has to be presented in front of the schools board of governers,. the parents and of course you and your daughter, so that justice required can prevail, and the support and healing required can be created?!Maybe this might at first seem slightly "OTT",but in the regular psychological therapy practice that i provide its just these sort of invisible injustices that spin individuals far off from the happy fulfilled lives we were all born to live.

  34. indrasingh says:

    nice one David!!totally agree

  35. Rhea says:

    I think you have many loyal supporters. I only hope that your daughter did not have to wear that band aid and that she was able to keep the piercing. After all, another child in the school was allowed to do it and I'm sure that they do not put children with pierced ears through the same trouble. This does remind me of the time I got my tongue pierced an a man from Pakistan spoke against it. He said it was very unsanitary and that I should have gotten the piercing in my nose instead. I said, what is the difference? He said that a piercing was prettier in the nose. Much of this has to do with culture. It is funny how ear piercings can seem so mundane for us but barbaric for another. I am currently reading Ghandi's autobiography and he wrote of the shame that Indians in South Africa had to face when they were told to take off their turbans wherever they went.

  36. yogiclarebear says:

    There are so many great thoughts and issues with this that have been brought up and should be talked about. I agree with other commenters that this is a very complex issue as well. One of my thoughts regarding the situation was that as parents/mentors, we need to be and help our children be mindful of using the justification of “self expression” in order to get attention or recognition, socially. When I was in school, I really wanted this certain pair of jeans, you know, to “express myself.” (And the jeans were from Express store!) What I called “self expression” was really just “wanting something cool and stand out in order to fit in.” Not that social recognition is a bad thing, but we can probably all remember as young people in a school setting wanting to “fit in” or “be with the cool kids” to the extent of it being a negative attachment. Parents should remember to help with discernment regarding self-expression, but I think in many cases the schools have decided that parents don’t do that well enough and they take over.

  37. yogiclarebear says:

    By the way, I am absolutely NOT judging anyone else on this point, but it is a consideration, at least in my experience. And, I DO have my nose pierced, and I hate wearing jeans too, ha! ;)

  38. DrBob says:

    *Would wearing a nose stud seriously ruin a child’s education?

    'Ruin' is a strong word. I do think that something is lost if an agreed, just, rule is broken. I'd suspect that something had already gone wrong if the first reaction of the student is not to re-approach the teacher, form tutor, mentor, counsellor or SENCO to talk through something perceived as unjust. Other routes could be student groups (committees/shadow leadership).

    It's not 100% clear whether there is a school rule in place from what you say, though the fact that one student carries a kind of exemption pass suggests that it is (maybe part of the home/school agreement).

    I think it's reasonable to question why a rule is in place. I don't think it's reasonable to accept a rule as part of a home school agreement and then break it expecting that there will be no consequence.

    *Why is there one rule for one and one rule for another?

    It's important that rules are implemented evenly. Sometimes rules change, though.
    School presents difficulties sometimes. A class where half are quiet and half are noisy; there are many strategies and no magic bullets. If group praise and instruction don't work the addressing noisy pupils individually can be both effective but also seen as unfair e.g. "Why did you pick on me when the others were talking?" ("Because I ended up addressing one student at a time and you happened to be first").

    I also detect some half full/half empty stuff here. Maybe the teacher who said the stud was inappropriate was unaware that a special exemption had been made for another student. Now that you know about that special case, perhaps you could just ask what you would have to do to also get your daughter to be allowed to wear a stud.

    I'm just basing my comments on what you have written here, Indra, if these are additional grievances against a teacher with a history of picking on/bullying your daughter I'd understand the strength of your feeling more.

    *When a child wishes to acknowledge their roots should that not be praised and encouraged?

    I think it's fine to praise and encourage the wishes. I also think it's fine to discuss that, living in a multicultural society/school, we sometimes need to negotiate/compromise/sacrifice. If she knew about the rule before having the piercing she could have discussed this at school before the event. I don't think it's fair to expect every teacher to investigate the appropriateness of every rule challenge in class. If the rule is clear and it's been broken. she should expect a sanction, but equally she should feel at liberty to question/challenge the sanction (but do it outside the context of the classroom so as not to interrupt the learning of other students).

    I'd also want to praise the child who looks forward to a society of the future, who was interested in working out how different cultures could live together. I appreciate Sikh students who do not bring the kirpan into school, I regard it as a necessary sacrifice.

    Does school dampen our children’s creativity?

    Sometimes. I agree that creativity is desirable but I don't think it's sufficient. Without knowledge you may believe you are being creative when you are being boring. The choreographer still ended up going to a school.

    Some forms of creativity are better expressed once basic skills are learned, though. I could not play jazz piano without learning many layers of rules of music and then develop my own style of 'rule breaking'. I don't practise yoga enough … I can't manage the advanced asanas as a result.

    Should school not look into more serious issues such as bullying as a major priority?

    Of course it should, but it's not an either/or question.

    I'm reminded of a of Yogi Bhajan quote, though, talking about the relationship between a student and a teacher.

    "But normally our relationship is like that between a stone and a chisel of time, and the hammer of a teacher. You must go fully chipped, shaped, and polished." :)

    (From http://tinyurl.com/ybteachers).

    Sat Nam

  39. indrasingh says:

    once again thank you thank you this is all wonderful to read

  40. Candace says:

    What more greatly hampers children’s ability to think and express themselves creatively; rules restricting appearance or lacks in funding that crowd 35+ children into an ill-supplied classroom with an under-paid and unsupported teacher (who is often expected to parent as well as teach and spends a disproportionate amount of time focused on disciplinary problems) and an educational model that emphasizes test-taking over problem-solving?

    With the huge disparity in school funding among districts, issues such as equality, celebration of diversity, and respectful behavior toward others may find the light of discussion in well-funded districts. But in many districts the crushing weight of underfunding and lack of parent involvement destroys opportunity for evolved strategies in education.

    Obviously if the prohibition of your daughter’s nose ring is based upon cultural discrimination it is a violation of law. But what I think we’re really scratching toward in thinking about our public school system’s tendency to be a meat grinder of mediocrity is that it is a symptom of diseased attention and subsequent priorities systemic in our society.

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  45. eleanor says:

    I must admit that I scrolled past all of the comments before leaving what follows. I intend to go back and read them, but felt an urge to share a documentary available on an ever-popular "watch movies online site". ( no product placement here) http://www.thewaronkids.com/
    I am fighting an uphill battle to preserve the spirit and integrity of my seven year old son against, dare I say, the system. I have written a piece about it that I intend to share with elephantjournal.com once I have edited it to satisfaction. Thank you for sharing this piece and keep up the good fight for our children! So proud to be a part of a community that tackles issues such as these. So sad for my son and his peers that there needs to be a fight in the first place.
    I shall go and read aforementioned comments now…
    Thank you again!

  46. Padma Kadag says:

    you are right… Planting seeds is good….and dont overwork the soil!!! I showed my kids a linear timeline that I drew. I showed them a very small point on that line to represent their current education and its limitations. I wanted them to know that there is so much more. One of my children was not doing particularly well in school. So I ersaed the line to which the point was connected and began to make arbitrary points everywhere unconfined by the single linear timeline and explained that there are many legitimate paths, most of which are left undiscovered.

  47. Candace says:

    I agree with you, but I would like to explore a point. Is there a situation where a school might be justified in over-ruling parental consent concerning appearance?

  48. mindbodyspiritwithpatience says:

    I think so. There are some choices in clothing and accessories that are not appropriate at least for our culture with or with out parental consent. I would like to add that even in lesser cases of "dress code" a parent should be met with before pulling the child out of class and punishing them for their actions.

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