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Parents Sue School After Teacher Locks 10-Year-Old Student In A Closet For Laughing

Photo: Drazen Zigic / Shutterstock
teacher holding a class to group of school kids at primary school.

A New Jersey elementary school is facing serious repercussions after a teacher forced a 10-year-old student into a closet as a punishment. The parents of the 10-year-old girl have filed a lawsuit against the district and alleged that their daughter's teacher acted inappropriately when disciplining her during class.

The teacher locked a 10-year-old student in a closet for laughing during class.

According to the parents' lawsuit filed on October 13, 2023, the incident between their daughter and her music teacher at Central Elementary School happened in April 2022. Their daughter, who is now 11, had been laughing during class when the teacher, Jessica Berube, allegedly forced her into the closet as punishment.

"[She] informed [the child] that she needed to go into the classroom closet because she was laughing during class,” the suit stated. The little girl's parents, Azuree and Edward Albanese, allege their daughter suffered long-lasting emotional distress after Berube shut her in a closet used to store drum equipment.

The student was prevented from leaving the closet for two to three minutes and was left "alone and completely unsupervised." While she was forced to stay in the closet, the young girl was aware of "other students laughing, making faces at, and otherwise ridiculing her as there was a window on the closet’s door." 

parents sue teacher who put 10 year old in closetPhoto: Ron Lach / Pexels

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She eventually left the closet on her own after seeing the music class was dismissed. 

The young student was bullied relentlessly because of the teacher's actions.

In the weeks after the closet incident, the fourth-grader was bullied by her classmates and called "closet girl" daily. It got to the point where she no longer wanted to go to school, and her distress peaked in May 2022 when she had a "mental health" crisis at school.

"As alleged in the complaint, Mr. and Mrs. Albanese’s 11-year-old daughter was traumatized by blatantly negligent conduct on the part of defendants on April 8, 2022, simply because she was allegedly laughing in class," Austin B. Tobin, the family's attorney, told the Asbury Park Press.

"Suffice to say, no parent would approve of such horrendous treatment of one of its students. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our clients in exposing this outrageous and unlawful behavior."

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To make matters worse, the young girl's parents were never contacted by the elementary school about the incident and instead had to hear about it from another student's parents. On top of that, another teacher at the school, Adrienne Foutz, is accused in the lawsuit of ordering a student to delete a recording of the incident.

The lawsuit, which names both teachers and the school district, alleges gross negligence and reckless conduct. The district is also accused of their alleged negligent supervision causing the child's severe emotional damage.

parents sue teacher who put 10 year old in closetPhoto: RDNE Stock project / Pexels

Teachers are entrusted with caring for and looking after every single student in their classroom, and this public school educator's decision to humiliate and traumatize a 10-year-old girl is a direct violation of everything that educators stand for. The incident even goes beyond locking the young girl in the classroom as she was horribly bullied afterward.

It's disheartening to learn that a young child, who should've been reprimanded differently for being disruptive in class, was subjected to such a distressing experience in an environment where she should've been encouraged to learn and thrive. 

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Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.