PASCO COUNTY, Fla. -- Science students at Zephyrhills High School say it was all a joke.
"She said 'It's time to put the cone of shame on you' and everybody was laughing," said student Tanisha Medina.
Medina thought it was so funny, she had a classmate take a picture of her wearing a dog cone then posted it on Facebook. She wanted to show her friends the mock punishment students faced in Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp's science room for talking, texting and eating in class.
Students took turns having the teacher put the cone around their necks. Several of them took pictures.
"We do a lot of bad stuff," Medina said. "She just did it as a joke saying she was gonna punish us by doing it, but she asked us before and we were all laughing and joking around."
That laughter died down, though, once parents saw the pictures.
"I don't care if it's a joke or not, it's unacceptable," said parent Dawn Davis, who was outraged after spotting shots of kids wearing the cone online.
Students say the 'cone of shame' was meant to mimic a punishment animals faced in the Disney movie 'Up'. The students had watched the movie in class as part of a science lesson on gravity.
Many parents failed to find the humor.
"That's a human, that's not an animal and I feel she (the teacher) shouldn't be here," Davis said.
Turns out officials with the Pasco school district feel the same way. Bailey-Cutkomp is now suspended without pay because of the incident. The teacher received a letter from Superintendent Heather Fiorentino saying she used "extremely poor judgment" and informing her of the district's recommendation that she be terminated from her position at Zephyrhills High.
Students call the punishment unfair.
"Everyone is like 'Ms. Cutkomp, we miss you' and it's affecting all of us, like the whole freshman class who have her as a teacher," Medina said.
Bailey-Cutkomp is appealing the Superintendent's recommendation and will have to plead her case to the school board to keep her job. A date for that hearing has not been set yet.
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