Soap and suspension

A New York teacher was put on paid leave indefinitely for a punishment my first-grade teacher threatened: Washing out a profane boy’s mouth with soap and water.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) Elementary school teacher Lori Thomas was placed on paid leave for dishing out some old-fashioned discipline washing a boy’s mouth out with a dab of soap after he shouted an obscenity at a classmate.

More than three months later, she’s still out of the classroom. Apparently, the district can’t figure out what to do about her.

Thomas, 48, who has taught for six years at inner-city School 22, said she was stunned when a 10-year-old pupil directed “a vile, very nasty sexual reference” at a girl as third-graders shuffled back into class from a playground break in March.

The boy had frequently been sent home for unruly behavior. Minutes earlier, he tried without success to pick a fight with another boy, Thomas said. But rather than let him get his way and earn another one-week suspension, Thomas decided to try something her mother taught her.

“Old-fashioned ways work,” she said unapologetically.

She took the boy to the nurse’s office, she said, “put a drop of soap of his lower lip, washed it out immediately and told him I never wanted to hear filth like that coming out of his mouth again.”

Parents and students did not complain, but she got into trouble anyhow.

About Joanne


  1. Anonymous says:

    Woman you’re sick. Why did you post this? I think the teacher should be fired. Putting soap in a kids mouth is just wrong, lets see if they can get away with this in a White school.

  2. Sigivald says:

    Why is it “just wrong”?

    (Do no white people live in “inner city” Rochester? I see no mention of race in the article. Are you assuming that the school is not “White”? Why?)

  3. Why all the self appointed protectors of blacks?

    Who asked anybody to do this?

    When are people going to stop deputizing themselves as self-appointed saviors of blacks?

    It’s a mental illness.

    And, by the way, the soap method seems to work.

  4. Once again, we hear about weak excuses from posters instead of backing the teacher. If I had my way, i’d have kicked that little turd out of school and required he and his idiotic parents get some mental help.

  5. Ross (the heartless conservative) says:

    You response is exactly what Thomas was trying to avoid.

    –begin quote
    Thomas said the school district wanted her to suspend the child for a week. She said he had already been suspended several times and needed to stay in school.

    ”I don’t suspend children in my classroom,” she said. “He did not need to be out of school for a week. He did not deserve that. He deserved to be disciplined and put back into the classroom.”
    –end quote
    From Democrat and Chronicle.

  6. A friend of mine’s mom did that to him when he was little. It worked for a little while, until she woke up one Saturday morning and found him munching on a bar of soap while watching cartoons.

  7. Ross (the heartless conservative) says:

    No name,
    Here is a picture of the teacher in question. I don’t know if the child who had his mouth washed out was White or Black but it does not really matter. The teacher went to the nurses office and got soap that was safe to use. She did not just grab a bar of lye soap. She also did what she thought was best for the child.

  8. Ross (the heartless conservative) says:

    The first poster, the one who was too cowardly to even leave a name and email address, is correct the school 22 in not a “White School”. Assuming of course that person was refering to the percentage of minority students instead of refering to the color of the building. According to the most recent numbers I could find 55% of the students are Black and 40% are Hispanic. So the odds are that the student was not White.

  9. Woman you’re sick. Why did you post this? I think the teacher should be fired. Putting soap in a kids mouth is just wrong,

    Dear Anonymous Coward,

    I sent Joanne the link. Ditto what Sigivald and Ross said. And for your information, when my brother and I were kids, we got a bit more than just a dab of soap in our mouths from our mother when we used foul language … and we’re white.

    Apparently Ford (?) didn’t consider it child abuse, because they used the idea of washing kids’ mouths out with soap in their “Revolution” commercial, to humorous effect, during this year’s Superbowl.

    Finally, in my humble opinion, plenty of white kids today could use the same treatment.

    By the way, “woman” is a hella respectful salutation. Maybe Lori Thomas should track you down and wash your mouth out with soap…

  10. to emphasize the emphasis in the article: neither the parent nor the student had a problem with it, so who complained and why?

    Secondly – in these days of latch-key kids, to send him home on suspension is hardly a punishment, which is why it doesn’t work – it’s a “sentence” to watch TV and play video games all day.

  11. The teacher must have missed the memo. You’re supposed to put Ritalin in the child’s mouth until he graduates. Har har!
    If I had a choice of soap or Ritalin I’d choose the soap.

  12. Mark Odell says:

    Two words: soap poisoning :-).

  13. Careful Mark: You’ll shoot your eye out!

  14. That school still has a NURSE!!!! :-0

  15. Questioneer says:

    Let’s see…punishment I recieved in school during the ’70s and ’80s.

    “The Easy-Seat” – Being forced to half-squat with arms out forward, in front of the class until I started crying. I only had to do that ONCE, heh. It HURT!

    “The Hide-Tanner” – A large paddle with holes in it. 5 licks, minimum, 10 maximum. One did NOT want 10 licks from my basketball coach/history teacher. It HURT!

    “Bookshelf” – We had to support a stack of textbooks with arms parallel to the deck. We heard stories about what would happen if you let that top book slide off because your arms were tired. I never had to do that one personally but it looked like it HURT!

    My Mom would have called the teacher “soft” for simply washing my mouth out with a little liquid soap.

  16. Mad Scientist says:

    So, did you sign on for a tour of duty at Abu Gharib?

  17. Walter E. Wallis says:

    If the teacher was reduced to that, the principal should have some soap treatment JJ will not allow me to mention here.

  18. I'm not working says:

    Some states have laws which specifically prohibit the use of “noxious substances” for behavioral control.

    For example, in Montana:

    10.16.3346 AVERSIVE TREATMENT PROCEDURES (4) The following procedures are prohibited:
    (d) aversive mists, noxious odors, and unpleasant tastes applied by spray or other means to cause an aversive physical sensation;

    Obviously, putting soap in a kids mouth is meant to cause “an aversive physical sensation”.

  19. Bill Leonard says:

    Frankly, I find it hard to believe some of the responses I’ve read so far.

    Do so few of you understand that kids learn when teachers have control of the classroom?

    True story: my first day of kindergarten, September, 1948 — one kid had a tough time dealing with the idea that his mommy wa not there with him to shelter every new experience. He threw a tantrum. The kindergarten teacher, Miss Katrina Belz, upended him and paddled his ass in front of God and everyone (including selected moms looking in from the doorway.)

    Funniest thing: no one complained. Every kid seemed to thrive under Miss Belz’s loving but disciplined approach. Every kid knew the alphabet and could count to about 25 by the end of the semester (this was 1948, remember, and there were no Sesame Street sorts of nonsense shows to “help” anyone.) And, everyone seemed to do OK in spite of the semi-rural Iowa reality: pluming was a drinking fountain for kindergarten and first grade (this was two-rrom country school) along with outside privies for boys and girls.

    Ah, well.

  20. Sigivald says:

    Ross: Fair enough!

    (I still want anonymous coward to come tell me why it’s “just wrong”, though. I mean, I can understand arguments that it is wrong… but to state it as if it were an undeniable and obvious fact? Insubstantial!)

  21. Anonymous,

    Whether you agree or disagree with what is posted; it comes down to a matter of respect for Joanne Jacobs and others.

    Myself, I disagree with what the teacher did. I agree with Walter, send the child to the principal.

    If a parent soaped a child’s mouth and the school found what, what would they do? Report it as abuse to Social Services? In this day and age who knows?

  22. Mark Odell says:
  23. I believe the teacher was justified in doing this action. The unrully boy swore and got his mouth washed out. Good on the teacher. I wish we still had supervised spankings available as an option for principles and teachers in schools. Kinda funny how the child that had his mouth washed out bahaved the rest of the day and that it was the brother that reported the incident. The parents of the children in the class and the students didn’t say a thing and yet people are in an uproar over this matter. Do we want to let the children be unrully and misbahave to the point where they are unproductive members of society?

    I am a parent and do the same thing to my kids. They are well behaved. I wish more parents used the “old ways” of discipline. I grew up in the Midwest and had really strict parents. I am not saying I was an angel. Far from it. But I knew where the line was and knew if I crossed it what I could expect to receive from my Dad or Granddad.

    The kinda of opinions posted in this board about how this teacher was wrong and why what she did was wrong are why we have the amount of crime and violance in the US today. If people who aren’t parents would keep their noses out of other peoples business and allow parents to discipline their kids and not cry child abuse each and every time a parent spanks their child for doing something wrong or a smack on the mouth/washing the mouth out for swearing then we would be better off.

    I had a young lady the other day tell me I shouldn’t have slapped my childs mouth and that she was calling the cops on me. She only saw me slap him and didn’t even know why I had done it. Just assumed I was mad at him and hit him for no real reason. I told her to get the heck out of my business or she could take my kids and try to raise them herself and that the reason I slapped him was he tried to back talk me. Funny thing is she was single and had no children of her own and was trying to be a parent of other peoples children without any experience of being one. The cops came and took statements and then told the lady that she needed to learn what the differences in abuse and discipline are and until then mind her own self and let parents do what parents do best and that is raise their own children their way.

    Yes I do under stand that some parents don’t know when enough is enough and it turns into abuse. Those are the parents that need to be taught how to be parents and turned into better parents instead of people taking the children from them and showing the children that no matter what they do they will be able to get away with it just by crying abuse.

    We as a society need to keep the government out of our business and let teachers teach and give them better guidelines to keep discipline in their class rooms. If we, as parents, want to have our children in school we need to provide guidance to the teachers and administrators on what we want them to do and how we expect them to discipline our children. Rather then bash them when they take matters in their own capable hands when we fail as parents in giving them the guidance we need to stand by them.

  24. Oh and here are some stats on the NYDOE website:

    (Spring 2003 exams, Grades 3,4,5,6,7,8)

    Percent of Elementary and Middle School Students Meeting or Exceeding Standards on State and City Reading Exams

    (Spring 2003 exams, Grades 3,4,5,6,7,8)

    Percent of Elementary and Middle School Students Meeting or Exceeding Standards on State and City Math Exams:

    Pretty bad numbers…only 4 out of every 10 kids are reading and doing math at their level or above. All I can say is WOW…and maybe more teachers need to have the same approach to discipline as Ms. Thomas.

  25. Walter E. Wallis says:

    When people cannot tell the difference between cutting off a child’s privileges and cutting off his hand, they should not lecture others.

  26. I’m here in Rochester and have two sisters, both high school age, both of mixed race, and both in distinct favor of the action of the teacher, Lori Thomas. A clear majority of the parents of other children in the class want her reinstated immediately, yet the school board is blocking that. I personally would encourage her to run for school board- she would win handily, as she has broad support in both city and county.

  27. the truth, like it or not says:

    Get rid of public schools. Not only are they wasteful of tax dollars and rife with liberal proselytizing, they’ve been turned into “daycare centers” where non-parents (aka “breeders”) dump their probable bastards to let someone else raise.

    Education is a privilege, not a right, no matter how many socialist NEA turds lie otherwise. Knuckleheads don’t deserve an education if they can’t even be toilet-trained.

  28. Washing a kid’d mouth out with soap doesn’t hurt the kid physically. Yes, it tastes nasty. Yes, he probably goes around with a nasty taste in his mouth for the rest of the day. That’s the point of the exercise. Every time he thinks about the nasty taste, he should remember his misbehavior and be ashamed.

    Unfortunately, the way kids are today, he’s probably using the meemory to fuel his sense of outraged injustice and to justify some type of extreme physical revenge on that teacher.

  29. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Back in my day, a child of any color who used dirty words at school would have gladly exchanged a soapy mouth for what they really received at home.

  30. Anonymous says:

    actually, Lori just put a little drop of soap on his lower lip and washed it off. That is totally different than washing a mouth out with soap, which consists of taking a well lathered bar of soap and actually washing the intire mouth out, shoving the bar of soap in and out of the mouth very fast and hard twisting and turning and rewetting constantly coating the top of the tongue very well, under the tongue, inside both cheeks, the teeth (including the incisors) gums, the roof of the mouth etc. then making him bite down hard on the bar of soap in his mouth for at least 15 minutes. I have had this treatment several times because I continue to use inappropriate language (some people have to learn the hard way) I have acutually aquired a taste for soap and prefer Camay Classic