KANSAS CITY, Mo. – An incident where a student was said to be isolated in a closet at Maplewood Elementary School in the North Kansas City School District is stirring up controversy. The school is calling it a misunderstanding; the parent of the third grader is calling it outright discrimination and wrong.
Nine-year-old Cody is in the third grade at Maplewood Elementary. FOX 4 has blurred his face in the video to protect his identity. His mother, Rita, said while at the school for a book fair, she was shocked to find her son's desk isolated in the coat closet, blocked by bookshelves.
"When you go into the classroom, the coat closet is directly to the left of the class and the rest of the children were in the center of the room. My child does not even have a clear view of the white board, the front of the classroom," Rita said. "He would have to look at the teacher at a side view and up above a bookshelf."
Perturbed by the discovery, Rita asked the teacher what had led to Cody’s desk ending up in the closet.
"I got really upset and asked her why he was in the coat closet. She informed me that Cody wanted to sit there," she said.
The district declined a request for an on camera interview, but sent this statement:
"In mid-February, as part of the classroom's 'Learning Club', the teacher offered every student the opportunity to choose his/her new place to sit. Each child selected his/her own spot, and the teacher accommodated each child's request."
Those accommodations don’t set well with Rita.
“I think that's completely wrong. I asked him why he was in the closet or how his desk got into the closet," she said.
Rita said Cody told her it was a punishment and the teacher had moved his desk into the closet for excessive talking.
The school district insisted this was not a disciplinary response. Rita questioned why a teacher would allow her son's desk to be segregated from the rest of the class, especially because she says he has a learning disability.
"He felt different, he felt like nobody liked him and he said he didn't have any friends because he sat in the coat closet. Nobody sits in the coat closet with him,” Rita said.
The district says less than a half-hour a day is spent at the desks; the rest of the time is spent in groups. This incident is a ‘She said, they said,’ but one thing both sides agree on is the communication needs to be better between the school and parents. That might not be enough for Rita's son, she wants Cody transferred to another school.