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Autistic Boy Beaten As Students Watch and Cheer

Autistic Boy Beaten As Students Watch and Cheer

While waiting for the school bus in Elkton, Maryland, 11-year-old Kaleb Kula was recently beaten by another boy. As other children cheered — and as Kaleb was punched in the face — another student filmed the assault on a cell phone and uploaded the footage to Facebook where it was seen dozens of times and by Kaleb’s horrified parents.

Kaleb is on the autism spectrum and also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and says that he has been bullied “for years.” His parents, James and Jessica Kula, say that they have repeatedly asked the Elkton school district for help to stop the bullying. “At least kids that don’t have special needs can defend themselves a little bit more…He’s pretty much defenseless,” said Kaleb’s father. His mother commented that “I just can’t believe that kids can be so mean.”

Police say that the student who hit Kaleb has been charged as a juvenile with second-degree assault. The school district’s response — to call parents together to discuss bullying among students, according to the New York Daily News — so far seems half-hearted and all the more so as Kaleb reports that he has been enduring such treatment for some time. He has been both physically assaulted — kicked, punched “and a lot of other things” — and reports daily taunting, with students calling him a “homosexual.”

I’ll confess that, as the parent of an autistic son, I can’t stomach seeing the video; the screen shots posted by the Daily Mail are terrible enough. What’s just as disturbing as the assault on Kaleb by the other boy is the other students’ heartless delight about filming the assault and posting the footage online. During the incident, other children reportedly yelled “Yo, beat the s——— out of him, this is going on YouTube!”.

Elkton Middle School where Kaleb attends the sixth grade is part of Cecil County Public Schools, which has a policy about bullying. A form for reporting bullying says that

Bullying, harassment, or intimidation means intentional conduct, including verbal, physical, or written conduct, or an intentional electronic communication, that: (I) creates a hostile educational environment by substantially interfering with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities, or performance, or with a student’s physical or psychological well-being and is: 1. motivated by an actual or a perceived personal characteristic including race, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ancestry, physical attribute, socioeconomic status, familial status, or physical or mental ability or disability; or 2. threatening or seriously intimidating; and (II) 1. occurs on school property, at a school activity or event, or on a school bus; or 2. substantially disrupts the orderly operation of a school. [my emphasis]

The above sounds good but, based on the experience of Kaleb and his parents, the school district could do a lot more in teaching students that abusing and harassing other students is simply uncalled for; is simply wrong. Elkton Middle School has a section on its website about cyber safety to teach students about how to use the internet safely but, it seems, need to do much more, to teach students about how to treat others with respect, in the real world and online.

Kaleb himself says that he is trying to “move on” but describes what it feels like in words that every school administrator and official should hear:

I’m going to try to put this behind [me], but then it’s going to come running back in front of me and confront me again. That’s what I think will happen. It’s like a groundhog trying to run from its shadow.


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Photo by Kelley Mari

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1:42PM PDT on Mar 13, 2012

Thanks for the article.

10:30AM PST on Feb 18, 2012

It's sick to beat up people in general when not in's even sicker when they're picking on someone who is handicapped. People really have to be mentally depraved and evil to do something like this. Society's getting sicker and sicker, folks....:(

1:58AM PST on Feb 11, 2012

I think this school needs to have an assembly and tell these hethens who encouraged the fight (and everybody else) that it is so WRONG to bully anybody, especially an autistic kid!!
And then the principal needs to pull this bully out of class and give him detention for a couple of weeks in his office to punish him.
Suspension does nothing but give the kid an excuse to sleep in and not have to go to school.

5:20AM PST on Feb 7, 2012

One day we will hear about this bully on the news. Children who beat up defenseless disabled children don't grow up to be model citizens they grow up as psychotics who continue and eventually take it further such as murder of other people they feel are helpless. We all know the signs of a psychopath yet we fail to do anything about until its to late. I my self have an autistic son and this story makes me sick to my damn stomach. This child should be in jail and taught this is not how he should treat people.

12:01PM PST on Feb 4, 2012

you know we all focus on just the bully & so we should but when there are other people there cheering on the bully & filming on their phones to post on garbage sites like Utube should also have some sort of punishment to face as well its unfortunate that kids have taken after their parents with the moob mentality & will probably teach their kids as well that any for of bullying is ok people all say oh I cant believe that then turn their heads & walk away & dont even think of talking to their kids when they get home just to busy making money to worry about the kids until it happens to them then its all out war I have never seen Obama Or Harper on tv calling an all out war on bullying as for the bully do you think he is worried about a second degree assult charge he will get a slap on the wrist & called bad boy now go play nice well we are teaching that child that when they get older they can get away with commiting a violent act that society has said was ok hes just a kid well a bully turns into an abusive spouse cause they were taught its ok when are we going to as a society teach kids that there are serious reprocutions for byllying

6:01PM PST on Feb 3, 2012

This is disgusting. God sometimes I just wonder how people can bring themselves to do things like that.

9:44PM PST on Jan 31, 2012

I don't understand what's going through the heads of children nowadays. How can they be so heartless and outright mean. I feel that society these days are putting very bad influences on the kid, especially with all the media and technology.

5:38PM PST on Jan 29, 2012

I emailed the principal and asst. principal, and recommend you guys do so well, and urge them nicely, to take this more seriously and set a zero bullying tolerance policy.

1:11PM PST on Jan 29, 2012

The crowd that cheered the bully on should also be punish because of their behavior. It's time we educate our kids about bullying before they fall victim to it.

6:25PM PST on Jan 28, 2012

the student who filmed this had enough brains to know how to use a cell phone, but not a single bone of bravery or ounce of compassion in his body to stop the abuse. Maybe a close check on faces in the crowd will expose some of the bystanders. Put the pressure on them!

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