Pasco teacher who had students wear dog collar gets transfer

August 8th, 2012 by Staff
( LAND O’ LAKES — Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp, who was nearly fired for putting a cone-shaped dog collar on students at Zephyrhills High, is moving to Pasco Middle to be a science teacher.A Zephyrhills High teacher who was nearly fired for putting a cone-shaped dog collar on students is going to stay employed, but at another Pasco County school.

Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp will be teaching science at Pasco Middle School in Dade City for the 2012-13 school year, school district spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli said Tuesday.

Romagnoli said she could not discuss details of a settlement agreement between Bailey-Cutkomp and the school district because the agreement has not been signed yet.

“I can tell you that Ms. Bailey-Cutkomp is a certified science teacher, and our district has a shortage of certified teachers in this area,” Romagnoli said in prepared statement. “We look forward to a productive school year for this employee and the students of Pasco Middle.”

Bailey-Cutkomp could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The science teacher was accused in April of having her ninth-grade Zephyrhills High students wear the cone as a way to control their behavior and discipline them.

Superintendent Heather Fiorentino had recommended that the school board fire Bailey-Cutkomp, and the teacher was supposed to have an appeal hearing before the board on July 23.

But the hearing was cancelled because Bailey-Cutkomp, her attorney and the school district’s employee relations department were working on a settlement.

The teacher and her ninth-grade students referred to the collar as the “cone of shame,” a term inspired by the Disney movie “Up,” which features a dog wearing such a cone, according to a letter Fiorentino wrote to Bailey-Cutkomp when she notified her of the plan to fire her.

The cone is used to keep dogs from licking wounds after surgery.

Bailey-Cutkomp placed the cone on at least eight students April 10-11 and in some instances it was done to punish or embarrass the students, Fiorentino’s letter said.

Fiorentino asserted that the teacher gave students who were late for class the option of wearing the cone or sitting at a “tardy table.” When the case became public in May, at least one student publicly defended the teacher, saying that the cone was simply a joke and she hadn’t felt humiliated when she wore it.

Lynne Webb, president of United School Employees of Pasco, also defended Bailey-Cutkomp at the time, saying the teacher’s action might warrant some sort of discipline, but the recommendation that she be fired went too far.

The case drew plenty of media attention, both in the Tampa area and nationally. Reports appeared on the online sites of such outlets as USA Today, Fox News and New York’s Daily News, among others.

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