Mom questions teacher’s decision to place her son’s desk in a closet

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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.

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  • Cheryl

    In my opinion, even if the child requested to be there, it is the teacher’s responsibility to assure that child is not isolated or presented with barriers to learn. The teacher is the adult in this situation and i think it’s a little disturbing that she allowed 9 year old (assumingly 9 due to grade level) make such a decision although she is aware of the social, educational, and emotional implications of that decision. We should not expect for the child to have clear understanding of what the consequences of being in a closet. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to make the best decisions that promote a safe, inclusive learning environment for each child in the classroom…i mean, it is the child’s right.

  • Tiffany

    I honestly believe this particular elementary school has went down hill this year. We have had many issues this year and have never experienced the troubles we have this school year and my children have been there for the past 3-4 years. I have honestly thought about looking into a different school because I don’t feel like my children are safe this school year. I have even had issues with the bus driver, the same one they had last year with no problems. If you call the principal with a problem… Good luck getting her to call you back in a timely manner. The biggest problem at the school this year is the principal and secretary. Our children should feel safe while they are at school and as parents we should also have that feeling of knowing our children are safe during school and while on the school bus, unfortanetly I can’t say that I feel this way about Maplewood anymore.

    • Concerned Parent

      I have 2 stepchildren that attend Maplewood and a child that attends a SKC school. The difference in environment, communication and education is drastic. We have been extremely dissapointed in Maplewood and hope to change schools soon. This story is just one more thing that makes me shake my head in disgust.

  • Hayley Coon

    Does anyone talk to school officials anymore or do we all just call the news. Whether this is right or wrong, the boy isn’t in grave danger. Calm down deal with your issues like everyone. Step by step. Person to person. If yhat didn’t work THEN call the news.

  • MaLinda RaNae

    Well of course the school officials are going to say it wasn’t disciplinary. And I agree with others who have said why would she let this child choose such an isolated space. If he would have asked for it to be in the bathroom, would she have said “well, ok, let’s do that” I doubt it. This teacher needs to be educated and remanded. My heart goes out to this child and his mother.

  • Nik

    He probably chose to sit there because he didn’t feel he fit in with the other kids. We got to chose where to put our desks in grade school. We had one kid that chose to put his desk in a corner facing the wall. The boy isn’t hurt in anyway. My husband had a desk in the hallway that he sat at during individual work because he was a distraction to other kids. He was glad to sit in the hallway because then he didn’t get as distracted either.

  • sarah

    My daughter is in this class and i was present when this mother reacted the way she did…screaming…yelling… And had children scared! I asked my daughter about what happened and she said he wanted his desk there and he had not gotten in trouble! The mother could have handled things differently….she had other children in tears as she made a scene inside the classroom around other children!

    • Barbara

      This mother is not overly bright. How long had this been going on and she was completely unaware? The kid didn’t tell her because he knew what her completely inappropriate response would be, as witnessed by others who were present and said that basically she scared the peewaddin’ out of all the other kids and parents, screaming and hollering and making threats when she FINALLY discovered the situation. There are some kids who do better on their own (and keep in in mind this is for only 30 minutes a day). This kid CHOSE to sit alone. He knew he needed to be alone to do his work. Personally, I would have preferred the same thing myself at that age and I was very advanced academically. Another typical storm in a teapot, a loudmouthed over-reactive parent who was just embarrassed to think her precious darling was being treated differently. He was, at his request and for his betterment. Oh yeah, she’s such a CONCERNED parent. Right.

    • squeaky wheeler

      Sarah, that’s actually what I thought happened. This story is HILARIOUS. I don’t see what the big deal is anyway. So the kid wanted to sit in the closet? So what?! And so the teacher STUCK the kid in the closet? So what?! When I was a kid I would have LOVED to have been stuck in the closet. How sweet would that be!? I could have drawn on my desk and not been caught, could have read my books instead of the lessons… YAH! Sounds great to me!

      Some parents are real pieces of work. I feel bad for the teacher… and the kid. How lovely of this insane mother to drag the news into it so she can get her pouty day in the public eye. That’s just ridiculous. The poor kid will end up being humiliated over it. :-\ Grr.

  • Scb

    My son was in the same situation due to being a distraction in class and my initial reaction was to become angry. My son had to point out that it was helping him complete his work and his grades went up. May not be typical or ideal but should not be harm this boy.

  • Christy

    When I was in elementary school the teachers would put our desks inside big refrigerator boxes with the front cut out so we could not talk to the people around us. That was in the 80’s. Now thinking back to that I did feel isolated and felt like the teacher did not like me and did not even want to deal with me. I can see why this mom feels upset.

  • ace

    Ha, the kid chose to sit there and it’s discrimination? Even if it was punishment deal with it. This is a perfect example of why we have so many kids growing up with no idea what responsibility is. The reason the kid is getting in trouble is due to his parents not enforcing the right values at home. Who in their right mind would want to be a teacher. When you have to deal with parents like this. I can understand why the quality of teachers is dropping.

    • Richard BrotherDick Curtis

      Wow, so to punish the kids it’s ok to isolate them from their piers and to deny them that part of their education. I sat In a box for most of a year because I was hyper, and my teacher couldn’t deal with a hyper child. I was allowed a pencil and paper and was not allowed to take part in anything going on in class. I was one of many children denied education because of a failure of my teacher. How would you like to sit in a box for most of a year and not be allowed to do anything all day during school.

      • squeaky wheeler

        Richard, it sounds like you had a crappy time of it and I’m sorry that happened to you.

        Please try to remember that your teacher was a person. Not everyone has the strengths necessary to teach all types of children. I used to teach; the hyper kids (a.k.a., the bad kids) were always my favorites. In fact, some of the “good” kids were overlooked in my classes. When I look back, it’s something I deeply regret.

        It seems like you were seriously scarred over this particular teacher. I hope you can find some peace.

  • Richard BrotherDick Curtis

    They did that to me for most of my 4th grade year at neiman elementary school, in the shawnee mission school district. Mr. Lingenfelter said he was protecting me from the other students when my parents asked why. I was not allowed to take part in any learning for the majority of my 4th grade year I couldn’t even see the chalk board, wasn’t allowed to go out for recess or take part in any feild trips, and I was not the only child this was done too.

  • Steve

    In my 4th grade year at Maplewood I spent almost every minute that wasn’t a full class participation alone and separated from all other students. I was a talker and troublemaker so it makes sense. Other parents complained that I was disrupting their child’s education. So if you think this is something new, think again. Remember being put in the hall?

  • Edythe

    this same thing happened to my son at grace Moore elementary with North Kansas City School District I chose to take my son out of the school district because they would not make any changes one time I visited the school and found my son sitting at a bench underneath where the children hang their coach backpacks and his books and his desk was considered as the counter for the seats were children wash their hands when I asked the teacher she said he chose to sit there when I asked my son he said the teacher wanted him to sit there. II did talk to school board and everything it went on for more then 3months before my family and I moved to another school district. I as was told by his teacher that he had at Gracemore that she did not have time to help him with his school work.

  • Annie K

    This story just on the Chicago evening news and it upset me enough to google “Cody’s desk in closet.” Didn’t realize this was a KC story but it is hitting the national feeds. This is not just discrimination, it is child abuse, What is WRONG with that teacher? Even if he was acting up, you don’t put a little boy in a closet for ANY reason…and how the heck was he supposed to learn anything in there? Poor little guy. Cody’s mom is responding FAR more calmly than I would.

    Why isn’t that teacher being brought before the school board? She needs to be fired. AND….why isn’t her name being made public?!

  • Maplewood parent

    It’s not a closet with a door, it’s more of a recessed area with pegs on the wall to hang coats/backpacks. I have 2 children that attend this school, and have never had an issue. I have one that is a good student and one that requires additional motivation. In all grades I have had good experiences of the teachers working with him. I have found my kids desks in odd places and they said it’s because for however long they get to choose. It’s possible this child was put there because he was disruptive, it’s also possible that he chose that spot and didn’t want to admit it because his mother was so upset. I’m sure we will never know the whole story.

  • concerned parent

    My son is in this class and the Teacher is an amazing and a wonderful person and teacher. My child has a learning disability as well and I am so grateful for this teacher with out this caring and concerned teacher my son would not have made the strides this year that he has. Shame on the media for feeding the fire in this over reaction of a misunderstanding. and FYI there isn’t a “closet” in the room it is just a coat area that has a bookshelf in front of it ( a half of a bookshelf also it doesn’t even go past my waist ) the child would have in no way been isolated from the class. I think that whoever covered this story should have done more research maybe the spin on it could have been mother over reacts and tries to bash and ruin someones life and career. Please. There is so much going on in the school district and multiple adults in and out of the classrooms during the day that it would be extremely hard for the child to be abused and furthermore in this particular classroom I know that there are many many other adults in and out and assisting during the day. If there had been a question of abuse or any isolation or mistreatment of a student someone would have noticed. Also if the teacher was meaning to be malicious I am certain she would not have left the desk there during parent conference night!

  • Sheila Maberry

    It’s a shame that supposed Journalists don’t investigate before feeding a story that is riddled with lies. Closet–why not explain that it in fact not a friggin closet. Also, some kids are introverts and being able to be “away” from others for 30 minutes a day relieves there stress. My kids went to Maplewood and when we had issues I didn’t run to the media to solve them that is to be done with the teacher and administration. Maplewoods has always been a fantastic school. I give kudos to the teacher for asking the children where they preferred to sit.

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