Usually an award from your child's teacher is something to brag about. It means they did a good job. But that wasn't the case for one Tucson family - and now a teacher could be in big trouble. At first glance, the certificate given to 8-year-old Cassandra Garcia looks harmless. "You're tops" is printed in colourful letters across the top.
But take a look at what's written underneath. "The Catastrophe Award" - given to the one student with the most excuses for not having their homework done. "No child is going to be excited or happy, because they received and award like this," said Cassandra's mother. She is furious about the award that was given to Cassandra in front of her daughter's entire 3rd grade class.
"All the children were laughing at her." The teacher, Mrs. Plowman, calls the award a joke. Cassandra's mother however calls it bullying. "It is difficult to say whether their intent really was to humiliate or make an example of one child in order to motivate others," said Sheri Bauman, psychologist at the University of Arizona.
She says it's hard to define this one instance as "bullying." "So if this had been repeated whether in some way or in other ways, publicly embarrassing someone, pointing out their deficits, how they don't quite measure up," said Bauman. She adds that any negative award given by a teacher is inappropriate - whether it's a joke or not. The teacher works at Desert Springs Academy. It's unclear if the school will punish the teacher.