Underwear Checks? How Far Is Too Far When It Comes to School Discipline?

Apparently, talking to kids or their parents was too difficult for the staff of a Texas school.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jan 29, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

There are days when teachers do amazing, inspiring things, such as putting their students on the path to college or dancing with them to “Uptown Funk.” And then there are times when educators decide to check their students’ underwear so they can figure out which kid has been leaving feces on the gym floor.

As hard as it is to believe, that’s what happened on Monday to two dozen boys and girls attending Gustine Elementary School in tiny (population: 457) Gustine, Texas.

“I felt uncomfortable, and I didn’t want to do it,” 11-year-old Eliza Medina told WFAA. “I felt like they violated my privacy.”

It’s understandable that the school’s staff would be upset over regularly finding poop on the gym floor. It’s a gross prank, and custodians shouldn’t have to clean up such a mess. But it seems like common sense that there are other, more professional ways of disciplining students that don’t violate student privacy.

The staff could have called a school assembly, held a meeting with parents, or involved the kids in a more positive manner. Since children tend to exert some serious peer pressure on one another, the teachers could have formed a student committee tasked with finding ways to keep the school clean. Instead, the instructors chose to catch the culprit by partially strip-searching students and checking their underwear for fecal evidence.

Parents in the community are, understandably, angry.

“I was furious...I mean, I was furious,” Eliza’s mother, Maria Medina, told the station. “If you can’t do your job or you don’t know what you’re doing, you need to be fired. You shouldn’t be here.”

Ken Baugh, superintendent of the Gustine Independent School District, told the station that the actions of the staff were “not appropriate” and that he’d be taking “disciplinary action.”

I called Baugh’s office to find out what he’s planning to do to resolve the situation and was told he was in a meeting with a parent. (You think?) One thing is for sure: Baugh and other education officials in Gustine will get an earful from irate moms and dads on Thursday night at the local school board meeting.