Jefferson, SC – A 9-year-old girl’s family is outraged after learning her elementary school’s principal ordered her to clean the school’s bathroom floor with a toothbrush as punishment for putting too much toilet tissue in the commode.
The incident allegedly happened on Oct. 19 at Jefferson Elementary School in Jefferson, South Carolina. According to the girl’s grandmother, after the child admitted to putting too much toilet paper in the toilet, she was first punished by having her recess taken away. When she returned to school on Tuesday of the next week, the school’s principal gave her a toothbrush and cleaning supplies and told her to clean the bathroom floor as additional punishment.
“And I just find it so just belittling to a child to do such a thing as this. I don’t care what they did. This is something to me that should never happen in the United States of America,” the child’s great grandmother, Irene Avery, said at a school board meeting on Nov. 8.
Avery said the school principal Andrea Garrison assigned the punishment. Garrison is still employed by the district, according to the district’s website.
The student’s grandfather said the incident, which required a young Black student to do manual labor, carried racial overtones. Garrison is white.
Another public speaker at the board meeting, who did not say whether he was related to the student, said the punishment could damage the child’s mental health.
“This is a very terrible example for someone in our educational institution to set for a child,” the speaker said. “This is detrimental to the child’s mental and psychological state.”
James Barber, the president of the Chesterfield County NAACP, spoke during the meeting and said the incident needs to be “respectfully scrutinized,” and called on the board to take “immediate and decisive action.” Barber said they are calling for the “immediate dismissal” of the school’s principal.
“If that doesn’t happen, we need to know the vote. We need to understand who voted for what if this person is not dismissed,” Barber said.
In response, a school board member from off-camera said, “This issue has been addressed by the administration in a manner that the administration believes to be appropriate.”
“The district is aware and this is being handled as an internal personnel matter of which we cannot discuss further,” district spokesman Ken Buck told The State.