Germantown Middle student pepper sprayed at school, mother upset at school’s response

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GERMANTOWN, Tenn. — A 12-year-old student at Germantown Middle School was pepper sprayed by another student.

The student who brought the pepper spray to school received an eight-day suspension, but Kalen Johnson’s face was left blistered. He described the situation as a nightmare, and his mother’s nightmare came when she learned how administration reacted to it.

“There was this little pink bottle with like a safety clip on it, and I’m like, ‘She has pepper spray,'” Kalen Johnson said.

That was just the beginning of a frightening afternoon for 12-year-old Johnson. He said a classmate at Germantown Middle sprayed pepper spray in his sixth period classroom.

Johnson said he tried to get out of the way, but he was hit full-force.

“I really could not see at all,” he said. “And when I felt my face, my hands were hot, and I had bumps and blisters everywhere. And another thing, I could not breath at all.”

Johnson said the student who brought the pepper spray to class let another student hold it in exchange for a piece of gum.

He said when he went to the office, he felt no one was taking what happened seriously, not even the school resource officer.

“She walks down to the room and brings it back,” Johnson said. “She says it is pepper spray but a mild version.”

Johnson said he sat alone in the office until his twin brother came to his side.

“I was crying,” he said. “I was waiting for a voice that I knew, that I could hear, that I could put a face with a sound.”

His mother, Tomeka Johnson, broke down in tears while telling WREG that no one at the school or at Shelby County Schools ever contacted her about what happened to Kalen.

“I was more hurt than anything that they did not reach out to me,” Tomeka Johnson said.

And more than an hour passed before she saw her son’s blistered face.

“No teachers, no one that works in the office, not a principal, and they have three, picked up the phone to call this child’s mother,” Tomeka Johnson said.

Shelby County Schools released the below statement about the incident, disputing what Tomeka Johnson said happened.

“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.”

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