Teretha Wilson could tell by the look on her son’s face when he got off the bus on Tuesday that something was wrong, but it wasn’t at all what she expected.
“I asked him what happened,” Wilson told WTVD. “He said he got in trouble for saying ‘yes, ma’am.’”
That’s when 10-year-old Tamarion pulled a piece of paper from his backpack with the word “ma’am” scrawled four times per line across both the front and the back. He explained that he used the word when his teacher at North East Carolina Preparatory School asked him not to, and she required a parent’s signature as part of the punishment, according to the news site.
The boy’s parents were not impressed. McArthur Bryant, Tamarion’s father, said he taught his children to use “ma’am” and “sir” to show respect, and his son did not intend to offend his teacher.
“He had this look on his fac of disappointment, shame,” Bryant said. “At the end of the day as a father, to feel kind of responsible for that … knowing that I have been raising him and doing the best I can, it’s not acceptable.”
He explained Tamarion recently spent time in the hospital for seizures, memory loss and hallucinations that his teacher was unaware of. Wilson was also concerned that her son lost valuable class time because of the punishment, and she returned the signed punishment with a second page attached, on which she had Tamarion write out the definition of the word “ma’am”: “A term of respectful or polite address used for a woman” and “A term of address for female royalty.”
When he turned the sheet in to his teacher, she allegedly told the fifth-grader “if she had something, she would have thrown it at him,” Wilson told WTVD.
She requested a meeting with the principal, and when the teacher allegedly admitted to the threat, she requested a transfer to another class. The principal granted her request.
“It wasn’t right. It wasn’t professional,” Wilson said. “As a teacher, it wasn’t appriate. And I asked why she thought it was okay to do that.”
The teacher alleged her comments were a joke.
“If it happened to my son, I’m pretty sure if not a week, a day, a month, a year, it will occur to somebody else’s child,” Wilson said.
School officials did not want to discuss the incident, and instead issued a one-sentence prepared statement.
“This is a personnel matter which has been handled appropriately by the K-7 principal,” the statement read.