One day Kelicia Johnson-Chaney found out that her son Kelon had been unwell and needed to go home from school. But she wasn’t sure quite what was wrong with him. Then the little boy started to explain what was going on in the classroom – and the mom was horrified.
Johnson-Chaney resided in Houston, Texas. When her son Kelon was just four years old, he was a younger-than-kindergarten-age pupil who went to The Varnett Public School.
But one day, Kelon apparently fell sick. He needed to be sent home because he had been vomiting. However, his mother was puzzled. She wasn’t certain exactly what was the matter with him.
No mother wants to see their child fall ill in any way, and it’s even more frustrating when it happens outside of a parent’s care. It’s not always easy to get to the bottom of the situation. And Johnson-Chaney struggled to figure out what had taken place with her son.
As it turned out, although he had thrown up, he wasn’t unwell. In fact, the little boy was seriously upset and had been physically sick because he’d been crying so much. After he was taken home, the youngster confided in his mom and told her just what had happened. It made her furious.
Kelon had been singled out for giggling during class. The Varnett Public School’s policy for discipline is to give children of that age a time-out when needed. But the boy’s teacher had taken things into her own hands – with traumatizing consequences.
At school, the kids had been reading a book called After-School Monster. The story is about a little girl who goes home and discovers a monster who wants to eat her. In the end, she is able to face the creature down.
But it’s clear that the tale still made the children nervous that monsters might be real after all. And Kelon’s teacher and their assistant used this to their advantage. They decided to reprimand the kids by shutting them in a dark storeroom if they misbehaved.
One boy was forced to stand in the janitor’s cupboard for five minutes for acting naughty as the other children put their feet against the door to keep it closed. Kelon laughed and was ordered to go in there himself as a result. And other children had to do the same, too.
The four-year-old was evidently terrified that he’d had to spend time in what his teacher called the “monster closet.” He told TV network KHOU, “There was a monster and the monster was going to eat me.” Kelon became so upset that it made him physically sick and he was sent home.
“I don’t like going in the closet,” the boy explained to TV news station KENS5. “It is scary.” When Kelon told his mother exactly what had happened at school, she was aghast at what the teacher had done.
“You are taking a four-year-old and putting them in a dark closet,” Johnson-Chaney said to KHOU. “That’s like torture. That’s a torture even to an adult that is afraid of the dark. Who locks anybody in a closet?”
Johnson-Chaney complained to the school about the methods of Kelon’s teacher. And The Varnett Public School’s founder and superintendent Annette Cluff was shocked by the claims. “They are very serious allegations, and they are certainly a violation of our policy,” she told KHOU at the time.
“I was appalled, and because I was not here to immediately investigate that made me more infuriated to know that this had happened.” Cluff told TV news station Fox26. She added, “They used the monster in a closet as means of discipline and trying to correct behavior. That is just unacceptable.”
The school decided to take action right away. Cluff promptly suspended the teacher and their aide without pay. She explained to KENS5, “I’m a grandma, I’m a mother and I wouldn’t allow that kind of behavior with my own child.” The school and child services then began an investigation.
The children involved in the incident were questioned to assess exactly what had occurred. At the time, the school also stated that it would be looking at footage from cameras that were placed in the classroom. Once the probe was concluded, the teacher and teacher’s aide were sacked.
After a video about the incident was shared online, commenters weighed in. And many of them felt the decision was the right one. “These teachers are taking their evil politics to a new level. They all should be fired,” Marianne Dooley shared on YouTube.
Another user called the teacher’s actions “disgusting,” and one person mused that Kelon “must have been so scared.” However, others weren’t surprised. “Considering what grade school teachers get paid you all are lucky this doesn’t happen more often,” Melo Pelo wrote.
Johnson-Chaney pulled Kelon out of the school back in 2012 because she didn’t want him to have to see the “monster closet” again. And The Varnett Public School has had more drama since then. In June 2018, newspaper the Houston Chronicle reported Cluff and her husband had been sentenced to ten and three years in prison respectively for embezzlement and tax fraud that saw them pocket millions.
However, Kelon was doing well following the incident and told Fox26 soon after that he had learned “there was no monster in that closet.” He suggested that a better punishment for his teacher would have been to give her a taste of her own medicine, “Since I got in the monster closet, she should have got in the monster closet,” he said.