Two dozen girls on the Lake Braddock Secondary School varsity drill team were ordered to practice for more than two hours with their mouths taped shut to keep them quiet, a punishment the principal of the Fairfax County school said yesterday was "out of order."
The coach of the drill team, physical education teacher Jean Worthington, was reprimanded after one parent complained about the February incident, Principal John W. Alwood said. He would not say whether he imposed other discipline in the incident, which was first reported in the Fairfax Journal.
"I said, 'Hey, Jean, it was a poor decision and make sure it doesn't happen again,' " Alwood said. He said he told her the mouth-taping was "out of order."
Worthington declined to comment on the incident.
Alwood said he understood, but could not confirm, that the taping was a "joint" idea of Worthington and some older girls on the team, who thought the younger girls talked too much.
Shannon E. Flood, 15, a drill team member, said Worthington ordered the 25 girls to cover their mouths with strips of thick, white tape for the entire 2 1/2 hour practice session of marching, kicking and other routines.
They could remove the tape only if they raised their hands to ask a question and received permission to speak, she said.
The ninth grader at the school in the Burke area said the tape was very uncomfortable, and two girls with colds "could barely breathe." Her mother, Dee M. Flood, described the incident as "humiliating" to her daughter.
The mother said she complained to Alwood, who told her he was sorry the incident happened and he considered the matter closed. She said that does not satisfy her and that she wants an apology from Worthington.
One mother said her daughter was fearful that a complaint might endanger her future chances of making the team, which has 25 openings for girls from ninth through 12th grade. About 200 girls tried out for the team last year, the mother said.
Rachel L. Manason, 14, a ninth grade drill team member, said no one protested at the time because "we thought something would happen if we said 'no.' "
She said most of her fellow team members were "really embarrassed to have tape on with people watching" the practice, and "it was hard to concentrate with this thing over your face."
She said her mother was "really upset" about the incident, as were several other parents. But Alwood said one parent -- he is not sure whether of a drill team member or not -- called him yesterday to say "three cheers" for the coach.
Manason said she is not sure whether she will try out for next year's drill team. Shannon Flood said she will not go out for the team when tryouts are held next month.
Another drill team parent, who asked not to be identified, said she learned of the mouth-taping only yesterday and her daughter was not upset about it. But the mother said, "My reaction is that's just not an acceptable way of dealing with the situation."