Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

Mom upset after son, 4, says teacher put him in 'monster' closet

Ohanian Comment: I don't usually post instances of allegations of teacher misconduct, but this one got to me. And here's a reader comment, indicating class/race bias and total ignorance of how schools should work: A little extreme for a time out location, but if the parents were disciplining their kids the teachers wouldn't have to.

The name of the school on its website is The Varnett Public School, though in the first sentence "about us" they acknowledge they are a charter. The school was founded as a private school in 1984 and became a public charter school in 1998. Wikipedia has an interesting description of all the family members employed by the school plus the business tie-ins with other family members. Earlier this month, Ericka Mellon provided a good run-down on the financial entanglements of this family in the Houston Chronicle: Two Houston Charter Schools Face State Probe. The reader comment accompanying this article is well worth reading.

by Jeremy Desel

HOUSTON--A parent at Varnett Charter School says her 4-year-old child, who is in pre-kindergarten, was locked in a dark closet for laughing in class.

Kendrick was one of several young students to be placed in the locked closet for five minutes at a time.

The kids say they were told it was not just any closet.

"There is a monster in there!" Kendrick said.

"They just referred to it as the monster closet," said Kelicia Johnson-Chaney.

The boy said his teacher told him a monster was in the closet.

The teacher, and a teachers aid, are accused of not just telling the story, but allegedly putting several three and 4-year-old children in the dark janitor closet for five minutes at a time as punishment for acting up in class.

The children said they held the door closed with their feet while the children cried inside.

"I don't like going in the closet. Because it is scary," Kendrick said. His mom said he got so upset he vomited and had to go home from school.

She said she cannot believe the situation.

"You are taking a 4 year old and putting them in a dark closet. That's like torture. That's a torture even to an adult that is afraid of the dark. Who locks anybody in a closet?" she said.

She said she is pulling her boy out of Varnett Charter School.

"They are very serious allegations and they are certainly a violation of our policy," said Dr. Annette Cluff the founder and superintendant of Varnett Charter school.

Cluff said the school disciplinary policy for the pre-k level is time out.

"I was appalled, and because I was not here to immediately investigate that made me more infuriated to know that this had happened," Cluff said. She said that is why she immediately suspended without pay the teacher and teacher's assistant.

School administrators said that as part of their investigation they will be talking to all of the students in the class, but that is not all they will be relying on. There are also video cameras in the classroom.

If the allegation is upheld Cluff said the teacher and the assistant will be terminated.

— Jeremy Desel
KHOU 11 News





This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.