14-Year-Old Boy Forced To Wear ‘Shirt Of Shame’ By Parents Before Going Missing

This story has already gotten especially disturbing, even for a missing teenager case.

Scottie Dean Morris was last seen on Thursday, March 16. The 14-year-old reportedly had an argument with his mother and stormed out of their Eaton, Indiana home about 8:15 at night… and hasn’t been seen since. Eaton Police Chief Jay Turner told WTHR:

“It was over punishment. And I think it was just a normal mom-and-son argument, and he walked away.”

Volunteers have joined the police and fire department in canvassing the entire small town multiple times, including interviewing fellow students and searching inside over 20 houses. Now it’s been almost a week, and no trace. It’s not looking good.

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Police worry Scottie is “in extreme danger and may require medical assistance” due to weather. He left the house so suddenly he was dressed only in a white t-shirt and shorts — and Indiana is suffering a cold winter right now, with low temps in the mid-30s F. While the temperature is worrying, to be sure, the t-shirt is disturbing for another reason. Apparently the shirt he was wearing is the one in early EPD press releases.

However, after police realized what was going on with it, they ended up taking it down from their social media pages and putting up. Chief Turner told 21Alive:

“The shirt, it was quite unorthodox, kind of disturbing, and we’re looking into that.”

A white t-shirt with black writing? What was wrong with it? Well, when you look at the writing you may recognize it. It’s what’s known as a “shirt of shame” — a controversial parenting technique that went viral about a decade ago. Parents punish a child by making them wear a shirt with their transgressions written on it, for everyone to see. Scottie’s said “I’m a liar,” “I hurt my lil brother,” and multiple other phrases — and had a crying face emoji up top.

Scottie Dean Morris shirt of shame
(c) Eaton Police Department

Most parents AND experts disagree with the practice. Psychiatrist and parenting educator Jennifer A. Leigh told She Knows about the “shirt of shame” trend:

“Public shaming may be effective in teaching our children what specific behavior they should stay away from in the future to avoid future humiliation. However, shaming can damage the parent-child relationship. Children quickly learn they cannot trust their parents. Children need to feel safe and secure and to be able to trust their parents. Without such safety and trust, children’s brains do not grow and organize optimally. That means children are at risk for thinking, acting and behaving in detrimental ways.”

“Detrimental ways” like running out into the cold without enough clothing on?

It seems people are still pretty upset by the idea of public shaming for children. There was an immediate backlash by the public to the “humiliating” nature of the pic being used by law enforcement, leading to its cropping. Why did they use that one in the first place? Chief Turner explained to 21Alive it was “the only picture” provided to police by his family at first.

So… was it because they wanted to make sure everyone looking had the most up to date pic? Including what he was wearing when he was last seen? Or because they wanted everyone to see the shame? It’s a pretty upsetting punishment already, but to make the police and press complicit in the humiliation? Because we all want the young man found? Hopefully that’s not the answer. Though we have to note, they clearly planned on doing something with the photo — they took it after all.

Scottie’s mother Felicia Morris spoke directly to her son in an interview on WRTV, assuring him he is “not in trouble” despite how they left things:

“I love you and I want you to come home. I know that you’re mad and confused. Everyone is out looking for you and we’re not trying to scare you.”

Naturally many folks who find this kind of public shaming upsetting, even tantamount to emotional abuse, have spoken up against the parents. Chief Turner noted to 21Alive that they were getting “beat up pretty bad on social media.” But he also wanted to assure the public they are genuinely upset about their missing son and not hiding anything, saying:

“Right now, they have cooperated the entire time with us.”

Deputy Chief Chris Liggett elaborated on Monday that “there have been several interviews done, polygraphs have been conducted.”

Of course, it’s not going to stop folks from judging the parenting practice. What’s your opinion on the “shirt of shame”? See more on the case (below):

Scottie Dean Morris is 5’4″ and 150 lbs. He has short brown hair and blue eyes and wears glasses. Anyone with information on his whereabouts should contact the Eaton Police Department at (765) 396-3297.

[Image via WTHR/YouTube/Eaton Police Department.]

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