Thursday, February 25, 2016

Parents Irate Over Closet Discipline

Two sets of parents are irate about their children being put in a dark school closet and told the boogeyman would get them if they cried.

The incidents allegedly occurred at Marble City School during the school’s after-hours program. A female janitor was overseeing the children and put the two children – ages 5 and  6 – in the closet for disciplinary reasons she said.

The woman confessed she put one of the children – the 5-year-old – in the closet, but denied having done so to the 6-year-old. The parents of that child stated that they believe their child.

Nicole Oleary said she found out on Feb. 11 that her child had been disciplined by being put in the closet. That child no longer attends Marble City School.

Oleary said she wants to know why her child was disciplined and she was not told and why the school was not protecting her child, or others’ children.

“No one ever contacted me about a problem with my son,” Oleary said. “I feel like they (school officials) were sticking up for her (the janitor) more than for our kids.”

Oleary and the mother of the other child, April Farris, want to know why a janitor was overseeing an after-school program and why the janitor was not fired. They were told the woman was suspended for a week with pay.

Farris said, “The school didn’t tell us. Bill London (school superintendent) said he needed 10 days to look into it. Well, it’s been 10 days and we’ve not heard from him.”

Farris said her child told her about the incident on Feb. 10. Her son told her he was put in the closet for driving his toy car along the carpet too fast.

She believes the closet discipline was used more than once. London told the media one child was put in the closet once for only 30 seconds. Since the Christmas school break, Farris said her child has been having nightmares, screaming and crying, and is afraid of the boogeyman, even though his parents assure him there is no boogeyman. The children were also told not to tell their parents about the closet, Farris said.

She said her husband, Tim, was to meet with London today (Feb. 25) to discuss the incident.

Farris is direct.

“All we want is for her to be removed,” Farris said. “But I’m more angry at the school than at her. There are 10 to 15 kids in that (after-school) class, and she has no training. She should not have been put in that position.”

Farris said her child still attends Marble City School because he loves his regular teacher. He doesn’t want to change schools.

Oleary said the school tried to “hush up” the incidents, and others were told not to tell the parents of the discipline of the two children.

Oleary said she would like to see something done about the situation and would attend a school board meeting if the subject was on the agenda.

“I’m not trying to be vengeful,” she said. “I don’t want a lawyer.

“It’s not even about my kids anymore,” she said about the school’s handling of the incidents and allegations. “But I have to stand up for my kids. I have to stand up for all kids.

“Why try to sweep this under the rug? No one ever contacted me about a problem with my son. It’s just I want to know why the school didn’t take care of my kid. That’s just backwards!”

Farris said she and her husband went straight to the sheriff’s office to file a report on the incident and did fill out a report. But, she said they were told that proving child abuse would be too hard in a psychological case where no bruises or other physical signs of child abuse were obvious.

District Attorney Brian Kuester said he heard about the incidents through the media but had not seen a report on the allegations. He said his office must work with reports submitted by the investigating agency.

Farris said she also contacted the Department of Human Services but has not heard back from them yet.

“I’m not interested in dragging this through the media,” she said. But she would like to see something done.

“The whole system needs to be changed,” she said.

According to school officials the janitor involved in the incidents did resign effective today. She had been an employee of the school for eight years.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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