CALDWELL, Idaho – A kindergarten teacher locked a 5-year-old boy in a small, dark room alone at the end of a school day then forgot the child there for over an hour, according to a southwestern Idaho father.
School officials said Friday they were investigating after hearing from James Cagle, who says that when his wife found their son the boy was crying and had urinated on himself.
"He was scared," Cagle told Boise television station KTVB.
"You know just think about that," he added. "A 5-year-old boy."
Cagle said he and his wife panicked when their son didn't come home from his morning kindergarten class Wednesday. About 45 minutes after he was supposed to be home, they headed to Washington Elementary School to look for him.
Cagle said his wife and a school secretary found the boy crying and afraid in the small room in the dark, where he had apparently been for around an hour and a half after the teacher put him there for misbehaving.
"I know that if I locked my child in a room long enough for him to urinate on himself, I'd be going to jail or child protective services would dang sure be here taking him out of my house that night," Cagle said.
School officials dispute that the room was locked, saying the teacher would not have had a key. Assistant District Superintendent Monica White also noted that the door to the room has a large window, which allows light in from the hallway.
Still, officials acknowledge that the discipline was inappropriate.
The teacher "should not have done that," said District Superintendent Tim Rosandick.
"That's not a preferred practice," Rosandick added. "That is not what we would have wanted her to do."
The district hasn't released the teacher's name, nor will officials say whether she is still employed.
White also said she can't discuss what offense prompted the teacher to place the boy in the room, citing federal student privacy laws.
Cagle said administrators told him that an incident report had been placed in the teacher's personnel file, and that she was still teaching at the school.
Rosandick said the room is used for tutoring, where aides work with students one-on-one. It's also used for emotionally impaired students, when a child needs to be removed from a class for becoming violent.
Neither of those instances apply in this case, however, Rosandick said.
"What is very regrettable, and the teacher certainly feels awful about this, is the fact that the child was left in there and was, essentially, she had forgotten that she had placed the child in that room," said Rosandick.
The district is reviewing its policies and procedures on the tutoring rooms, White said.
Cagle has also met with the school principal, Steve Foley, who agreed to place his son in another kindergarten class.
"I'm not saying I want to get her fired. I don't want to ruin her career," Cagle said.
"But in the very same breath, it's my kid," he added.
Cagle said he has had other problems with the school, including three incidents where the boy didn't get home on the bus as he should have. Twice he was placed on the wrong bus, and once he wasn't placed on the bus at all.
Cagle said he complained each time. White, for her part, said she hadn't heard those reports and that it's possible school officials had not notified district administrators.
"The last thing we ever want to do is lose a child," White said.