Here's a question most school administrators rarely encounter: When does a detention area for misbehaving students amount to a cage?
At McDonogh City Park Academy, school leaders are adamant. They say the room just off the school's cafeteria does not meet the definition. Yes, it has a mesh fence; it used to be an equipment locker. But there's no lock on it anymore and school groups like the basketball team regularly hold meetings there, says Mike Bagot, president of the New Orleans Charter Schools Foundation, which runs McDonogh.
Still, that explanation has not satisfied the mother of one student who was kept there this week.
Latreshia Davis acknowledges that her son, 14-year old Eugene Allen, has had disciplinary problems in school over the years. He's gotten into some fights, and Davis has had to leave the work force to put his education first and make sure he's on track.
But she was startled by the call she got from Eugene on Tuesday.
Davis, who lives in eastern New Orleans, says the eighth-grader phoned her during lunch and said he was being held in a cage with several other students, that it was getting too warm for him, and that the teacher supervising them was in and out of the room…
Davis, 38, was troubled by the incident nonetheless, especially since Eugene's only infraction appeared to have been approaching the basketball coach with a question during free time.
"I send my child to school for an education and I'm a very involved parent, " Davis said. "He's not perfect -- I never said he was. But everyone at that school knows they can call me at any time and I'll be there."
She added, "When you get to the point of locking someone up in a cage for even one minute, it's too much. What is that putting in the minds of the kids? That they're animals? That they're not worth anything?"…
School punishment is an issue that has already drawn strong emotions and even legal action in New Orleans.
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McDonogh City Park Academy
NEW ORLEANS PARENT SAYS HER EIGHTH-GRADER WAS PUT IN A 'CAGE' AT SCHOOL; March 16, 2011; The Times Picayune (New Orleans, LA)
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Watch the WGNO-TV news report HERE.