‘Horrible’ School Award Given to Year 8 Student Sparks Debate


Like most parents, I find that my kids receive school awards often. The Healthy Lunch award. The Kindness Award. The SEL (social and emotional learning award). The Proud Cloud Award. The Principal’s Award.

Every time my children receive a school award, they beam with pride and let me take their photos as they hold up their certificates. Sure, these types of awards are rotated throughout the classroom but, hey, they make children feel special and proud and that’s important for them.

Except when these types of awards do the opposite. No award should make a child feel dumb, worthless, ashamed or embarrassed, but the Zero Award may have done just that.

And, incredibly, this was actually given out to a student in America. But is it really as bad as it sounds??

A Zero Award. An award that reads, “It’s impossible to be me. Don’t try. You’ll never find a solution.”

The mother of the young man who received this award was horrified when she saw it.

Patricia Buckley spoke to WAPT16 about what happened, explaining that when she picked her son up from Leake Central Junior High, she instantly knew something was wrong.

He wasn’t his normal boisterous self.

[He was] balled up like he was ashamed,” Patricia said.

In America, this is the end of the school year so Bradley doesn’t have to return to this classroom. However, this also means Patricia hasn’t received the answers she’s searching for, namely, what does this even mean?

Patricia said that she has spoken to the Leake County Schools superintendent multiple times, but has yet to hear about any solutions. All she was told was that it was the teacher’s first year teaching

I think it was so horrible for him to get this award. I’m going to do what I can do for this to never happen again. Not just to Bradley, but any child.”

Patricia also admitted that she is considering pulling her son out of that school next year.

What does the Zero Award even mean? 

From the wording, it could potentially suggest it’s an award for kids who won’t amount to anything. If this is the case, then we are speechless and absolutely appalled.

However, we DON’T know this. And, as many commenters on the WAPT Facebook page have pointed out, it could actually be a very clever maths joke. The calculator icon also kind of suggests it might have something to do with maths. 

zero award
Source: WAPT

As one commenter explains,

I think what she was trying to imply is that “zero equals zero. It has no solution” Therefore, “This student is a one of a kind and no one can measure up to him”.”



However, there are plenty of others who are quick to point out that, even if it’s meant as a joke or a maths pun, the wording is wrong.

This is not an award they should give any child. Shame on them. The school should be trying to lift them up not tear them down. An award given to a student that you have to explain the meaning of maybe shouldn’t have been given,” one writes.

As a math educator, I don’t agree with the title. However, the description makes me feel it was harmless. As educators, we have to be rational and mindful. The Zero award doesn’t sound like something I would be proud of. Regardless of what she meant,” another added.

What do you think? How would you react if your son came home with a Zero Award?

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Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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