Growing up, many of us were taught to refer to our elders as “ma’am” and “sir,” especially if you were raised in the South. However, while some may think of the terms as a polite way to show respect, others find them to be outdated — and possibly even offensive.
Parents Teretha Wilson and McArthur Bryant were shocked to find out that their 10-year-old son, Tamarion, was punished by his fifth-grade teacher at North East Carolina Preparatory School in Tarboro, N.C., because he called her “ma’am.”
When Tamarion got off the school bus, Wilson said, she could tell something was wrong with him. Then the boy showed his mother a sheet of paper with the word “ma’am” written numerous times, according to WTVD. His teacher asked him to write it, he told his mother, and return it with a parent’s signature after he repeatedly called her the word despite being told not to do so.
A family member shared a picture of Tamarion’s paper along with a statement from his mother on Facebook, where many chimed in, wondering why a respectful gesture had been met with this kind of punishment.
“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 that I can, it’s not acceptable,” said Bryant.
Tamarion completed his assignment during class hours, which made Wilson worry that it had interfered with his real schoolwork. According to Wilson, the teacher also told Tamarion that “if she had something, she would have thrown it at him.”
After Wilson signed the paper, she had Tamarion write down the definition of “ma’am” (“a term of respectful or polite address used for a woman,” according to Oxford Dictionaries) and hand that in as well.
Wilson then met with the teacher, who has a number of years of experience, and the principal to discuss the incident; the teacher told Wilson that she believed Tamarion had been aware that she was not serious. Wilson requested that her son be moved to a different classroom, and the principal agreed.
An official with the school released a statement to WTVD that read, “This is a personnel matter which has been handled appropriately by the K-7 principal.”
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