SARASOTA, Fla. - A kindergartener who missed too many days of school can't participate in a reward program at Tuttle Elementary School. But the little girl's grandmother says the six year old and other students are being publicly shamed, and it's going too far.
Tuttle Elementary School has a mandatory uniform dress code. But this past Friday, students got rewarded with a "no uniform day" -- but only if they had good attendance and work habits.
Students that didn't meet the requirement had to wear their uniforms, and that is causing controversy.
“It's one thing to explain to a child that they didn't do well, but don't make them wear the scarlet letter," says child psychologist Carol Marino. Her 6-year-old granddaughter Bella attends Tuttle Elementary, where students are required to wear uniforms.
On "No Uniform Day", Bella went to school with regular clothes. But because she was absent too many days, the kindergartener was sent to the office, given a uniform, and told to change.
“In the middle of reading they just sent me to the office to change my clothes," says Bella.
Marino says attendance and tardiness are the parent’s responsibility, and children should not be punished for their parent’s wrongdoing. "The minute a child comes in with a uniform and 80% of the kids have street clothes, there's humiliation, teasing, distraction."
The school's website says students can participate in the special day if they have good work habits, which include attendance, a good attitude, preparedness, and homework completion.
Sarasota County Schools say this special day is meant to be positive reinforcement. "I would emphasize it's a reward. The focus is not on punishment. And again, it's not an ostracizing situation," says school district spokesperson Scott Ferguson.
Marino says Bella was crying in the office when told to change and her parents were not notified. "Perhaps that should have been done. So in the future that's probably a good practice to give the parents a heads up that this is being done. But it's standard practice to give the student a uniform who's not wearing one that day."
Sarasota County Schools spoke on behalf of Tuttle Elementary's principal. And they say the School Advisory Board made of parents and staff are the ones who came up with this day to reward good behavior. And they still plan to have "No Uniform Days" for the students.