GMC prep school’s punishment of student went too far, mom says

jkovac@macon.comNovember 8, 2013 

A Georgia Military College Preparatory School student went home from the hospital Friday, more than a week after her mother says a school-sanctioned disciplinary drill pushed her to exhaustion and triggered a medical emergency.

The student, 16-year-old Rose O’Donnell of Sparta, was being punished for plagiarizing a paper at the Milledgeville high school. She was ordered to do 80 pushups and other exercises, which her mother says caused a condition that can lead to kidney failure.

The student, apparently in tears, complained that she was exhausted and couldn’t continue the rigorous workout. Later, her arms swelled. She spent more than a week at a Baldwin County hospital.

GMC officials did not respond Friday to emails or telephone messages seeking comment.

Norma Jean O’Donnell said Friday that her daughter, whom she said is ranked third in the junior class, was “embarrassed” about plagiarizing and that she had “owned up to it.” But the discipline Rose endured, a drill session known as “bull ring,” went too far, her mother says.

Rose was hospitalized Oct. 30 and treated for a condition known as rhabdomyolysis, muscle-tissue breakdown that prompts adverse affects on the bloodstream. It can be caused by overexertion.

Norma Jean O’Donnell said the school was investigating the matter.

“There’s been no formal apology,” she said. “They’ve kept in touch. They were up to the hospital every day checking on her.”

O’Donnell said from what she understands, the disciplinary exercise is “being modified now.”

“I want to see change on how they implement the discipline,” she said.

She plans to send Rose back to the school, which Rose has attended since ninth grade.

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

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