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#trending: Teacher in China criticised for ordering students to submerge phones in water as punishment

A video showed students from China putting their mobile phones in a basin of water as a form of punishment.

A video showed students from China putting their mobile phones in a basin of water as a form of punishment.

  • A middle school teacher in China drew criticism for submerging students’ mobile phones in water to discipline them
  • Netizens felt that the punishment, which would most likely damage the phones, was too harsh and costly
  • The teacher has since been reprimanded and the school ordered to pay compensation for any damaged phones

GUIZHOU, CHINA — An unconventional method of punishment by a teacher in China has drawn ire online.

A teacher from a middle school in Guiyang, Guizhou province decided to submerge students' mobile phones in water in order to discipline them.

A video recording that circulated online on May 9 showed 15-year-old students going up to the teacher’s podium one by one to place their phones into a basin of water. The pupils were in Grade 9, Sina News reported.

A stack of more than 20 phones sat beside the basin, which already had more than a dozen phones submerged in there.

In response to the video, an anonymous male teacher from the middle school said that the school has a strict policy on mobile phones, and consent was given by parents to discipline the students as they see fit.

He explained to online media Time Video that the school restricts the use of phones and has a strict ban on romantic relationships, smoking and drinking.

Parents have been apparently supportive of the ban, even suggesting that phones be smashed on the floor as a form of punishment. 

“Since dropping phones on the floor could have a bad influence on the children, the teacher decided that the water treatment was a more appropriate solution,” the unnamed teacher said.

He added that the children were obliged to comply because their parents had sanctioned the punishment.

The incident drew a heated debate online.

One person asked on Douyin, the Chinese version of video-sharing application TikTok: “Just confiscate it, why do you have to soak it?”

This echoed the sentiments of other online users.

Many also noted the costly repercussions of this method of punishment: “A mobile phone costs thousands of yuan. Is it really appropriate for the school to do so?”

Some had doubts on whether parents really approved of this: “The parents agreed? I feel that any normal person would not agree to losing thousands of dollars that they have worked so hard to earn.”

Mobile phones retail for about 1,000 yuan to 10,000 yuan (S$191 to S$1,913) in China. 

Another online user suggested that the act could be illegal: “The students could report a criminal case of their private property being damaged.”

Staff members from the education bureau there told Jimu News that the teacher has been "reprimanded and educated” for her behaviour and that the school will have to provide compensation, if any phones were damaged. 

“The school cannot ruin the belongings of students, even with the parents’ permission,” the bureau's representative said. 

In recent years, the “destructive” treatment of mobile phones has become an increasingly common discipline method in China's schools. 

A school in Xinyang, Henan province made headlines in 2021 for organising a “ceremonial” mobile phone smashing activity. Students went up to the school podium to smash their phones with a hammer while their peers watched, a punishment for using their phones before examinations.

Similarly, a school in Hebei province sparked outcry last year for its mobile phone smashing practice.

The school had placed a sign accompanied by a hammer at the school gate for "complimentary phone smashing", to remind students that mobile phones found on them will be broken by a hammer.

Although the school said that it would compensate parents for the damaged phones, online users found the punishment inappropriate and violent. 

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Trending China mobile phone discipline

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