Monday, September 30, 2019

Box of Shame Makes a Comeback in Seattle Public Schools

In the late spring of 2019 a Whitman Middle School student asked me to watch a video she had taken in her math class. The video showed a 3x3 square made of tape located on the classroom floor.

The square had written on it "Box of Shame".

The student was upset because the teacher was forcing students who the teacher thought were disengaged to sit on the floor in the Box of Shame for the remainder of class. The student described how the teacher would ridicule any student forced to sit in the box and said all the other students were embarrassed that they did not stop the teacher from abusing the students. Most of the students forced to sit in the Box of Shame have IEP's and are in the class to learn math not to be humiliated.

On June 6, 2019 I emailed the district and reported the abuse. The regional supervisor responded as asked if he could view the video.

I sent him a link to my cloud storage,

As you will see in the emails that the School Board Director for District 1 did not bother to engage.
The abusive teacher used the tried and true "it was a joke" lie and the district very quickly circled the wagons to protect the teacher and principle who was made aware of the practice months earlier.

The following are excerpts from emails between Whitman school staff and the district.
Can you please advise status and next steps - also happy to talk - thanks - Leslie
Leslie Harris
Director, Seattle Public Schools Dist. 6


I just spoke with Christina. She has no knowledge of this. She’s walking classrooms right
now. Update coming.
Sent from my iPhone
On Jun 6, 2019, at 3:30 PM, Kokx, Sherri K <> wrote:
Hey Jon,
Pls let us know the resolution.
Thank you!
On Jun 6, 2019, at 1:42 PM, Superintendent <>
FYI. DeLinda


I’ll be dealing with this in the am. Won’t make FW. Good luck.
Sent from my iPhone


Same to you. That does not seem like the Wildcat way. Let me know how it turns out and if you
need anything.


Here’s some background before I answer the questions.
I don’t believe that sending students out of the room when they’re distracting others or being
a distraction to the class is the right move. This is because they would miss ever more class
instruction so I started having kids come sit right in the front of the class as a reset for them to
focus with nothing else to distract them other than the instruction right in front of them.
This wasn’t something that frequently happened because most of the time students were able
to redirect with a simple warning. Where they would sit was just an empty space for a while
until one student was really struggling to focus and was talking a lot and had to frequently sit
up front after multiple warnings. When he was sitting up front, he would lean against the
desks or other students, causing more disruption so I had to clarify that he needed to be in the
center of the space. One student jokingly said “we should put a box on the floor”. The student
on the floor was laughing and somehow it came up that we should tape a square on the
ground. When I taped it, all the kids were laughing, including the boy. It was very obvious to
me that the boy was enjoying the attention and humor. If I had sensed any sort of
uncomfortableness from him or anyone else in the room, we would have ended it.
Other classes saw the taped off area and asked what it was for and I said it was a place for
students to focus on the instruction when they couldn’t in their seats. They all thought it was
funny and then some kids in my 6th period class were saying, “we should call it the box of
shame”. They all thought it was hilarious and so I jokingly wrote it. When kids would leave
some items in the class, we would sometimes put them in the box of shame or if someone was
caught reading instead of doing their math work, their book would be put in the box for them
to get after class. The students really took ownership over this box and made it a part of the
class. Even in my 6th period class, they would request to sit in the “box of shame”. Never was
it used a punishment, simply redirection and class moral and humor.
It became a class joke between all my classes, offering a light hearted and humorous situation
that the students and I created together. I try to create a fun classroom environment because
that’s not always an easy thing to do in middle school and, specifically in a math class, so this
was really just something we did for fun. There has never been any complaint or indication to
me that anyone had an issue with it since the students were thinking all of this up and were
laughing about it. I’m sorry if it was interpreted in a negative manner from anyone. If I had
heard or noticed any sort of negative reaction to this joke from my students, I would have
immediately have gotten rid of it. It is now gone and there will be no more talk about it. 


Thank you, hope you can now relax.
Sent from my iPhone


Thank you for your emails and bringing these issues to our attention.

I have talked with Jon Halfaker and Christina Posten and the ‘box of shame’ issue has been addressed.  From what I understand, the ‘box of shame’ was a space in the front of the room for students who chose to be there; the teacher did not intend for it to be a punishment for  students.  The principal has discussed the issue with the teacher and it will not continue.

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