SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. - One Memphis mother said she was let down by Shelby County Schools when she learned her son was pepper-sprayed in the classroom by another student but says nobody called her to let her know.
"Right now, I'm feeling really helpless. And I feel like I let him down," said Tomeka Johnson, the mother of 7th-grade twins at Germantown Middle School.
Tuesday, just when Johnson's two kids were about to be picked up from Germantown Middle by their grandmother, she got a phone call from her son. He told her that his brother, Kalen, has been pepper-sprayed.
"I did not hear about it until 3:20 p.m. Not from an administrator, or anyone in the office that said ‘what's your mom's number? Let me call your mother,'" Johnson said.
Johnson said when she walked into the school's front office, Kalen was lying on a couch – his face broken out, and eyes swollen shut.
"My baby is sitting there, his eyes are puffy, lips are puffy," Johnson said. "Had they been trying to get him medical attention, and they didn't call me, that's one thing," she said.
Kalen is 12-years-old and had just gone to the doctor that morning for an asthma-related appointment.
He said the pepper spray was painful.
"When it touches your skin, it's like a bubbly feeling. Like your skin is just peeling off. It's just horrible," Kalen said.
Kalen described the incident: he said a girl opened a small, pink container of pepper spray. He said the next thing he knew, he was walking out of the classroom alone to wash his eyes out in a water fountain.
Kalen said the teacher was sitting close to him in the classroom but never intervened or said anything to him throughout the incident.
Johnson said the school told her that the girl was suspended for eight days. Because pepper spray is not allowed at Shelby County Schools, Johnson said she feels the punishment wasn't harsh enough.
Beyond that, she wants to see a policy change: she said she wants schools to call parents as soon as possible, and not wait.
Kalen reflected on the physical pain of Tuesday. He ultimately said the fear of being scared and alone was a worse kind of pain than the pepper-spray.
"I'm scared because if it happened once, it could happen again. Who's there? Because apparently the teachers aren't," Kalen said. "I felt very scared and alone."
Shelby County Schools sent a statement:
"A Germantown Middle School student was disciplined Tuesday for spraying pepper spray at another student. District policy prohibits pepper spray in schools. The grandmother of the student who was sprayed was already on campus to pick him up and was notified of the situation at that time. Shortly after dismissal, the student's parent arrived on campus and was fully informed as well. The school also notified all families that evening to make sure they knew the situation was being addressed."
They did not yet answer FOX13's questions regarding teacher disciplinary action or why the Johnson's weren't called by a teacher or principal.
We will continue pressing those questions and update this article as soon as they're answered.
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