A few weeks ago, I read this article about a woman who put a child in a closet as a form of punishment: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/sep/19/children-shut-in-closet-as-punishment/
I'm sure I'm going to get a lot of grief for this from my friends with kids, but I don't really have a problem with this, per se. I have always thought that finding effective ways of punishing children is very difficult because, in my opinion, the punishment should fit the crime, but it also has to have meaning for the child.
I'm not saying I'm in favor of putting kids in closets, but the article states that it was for a few seconds. That's not a very long time. I know of a teacher who would use her coat closet as a "time-out" room. The closet had two doors that could not be locked, and a window, for pete's sake! It also had a chair. This teacher, who routinely had 30+ children in her elementary-aged classroom found it an effective prophylaxis for kids who clearly needed a break before they actually stirred up trouble. More often than not, the child would either rejoin the class a few minutes later, in a much calmer mind set, or the child would fall asleep in the chair. (Really, I have no idea why there's not more nap time in elementary school).
My first grade teacher would ask kids to leave the room, count to some number that she specified, and then return. Generally, this would be enough to calm the kid down (I mean how many 6-year-olds are going to remember whatever it was that got them all riled up if they had to leave the environment and count to 30?). Yes, technically, the child was unsupervised for the x number of seconds/minutes (depending on their counting skill) they were in the hall, but it still seems like a better solution than waiting for the child to reach his or her limit and disrupt the entire class.
Growing up, there were times when my sister simply couldn't behave at the dinner table. She would be given the option of eating on the back porch. She would take her little plate and go out there and mutter to herself about whatever perceived injustice she was suffering from, and then come back inside when she was done (either eating or muttering; either way she was a much calmer person). No, she wasn't sent out there when it was raining or snowing or anything like that, but she didn't seem to mind it and it prevented a number of arguments at the dinner table.
Now, the article doesn't discuss what the child had done that required punishment, and I think day care centers should probably have some sort of time-out room or area built in because it's inevitable that it will be needed, but this sort of sensationalism of something that we don't know all of the information about drives me bananas! Has anyone actually asked why the teacher did it, or if it actually bothered the children? (Although this is California. Much like the sexual harassment laws where even if it doesn't bother me that someone calls me dear at work, if it bothers someone who overhears it, it still counts; probably it's considered child abuse even if the kid doesn't think he or she is being abused. But I digress).
From my years of babysitting, and now that my friends have kids, I've learned all sorts of methods of punishments, some of them more traditional, and some more creative, but sooner or later, parents figure out what works for their kid.
Likewise, experienced teachers can tell when a child is about to have some sort of meltdown, and they've probably come up with some effective techniques to handle it before it causes a chain reaction with all of the students. It seems to me that the reasonable course of action would be for parents to ask about this before they send their kids to daycare.
You know what's not reasonable? Baby heads on a shelf. That's just creepy.