Stuart Chaifetz had his 10-year-old autistic son, Akian, wear a recording device after school officials at his school in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, said that the child had started to hit staff. According to NJ.com, Chaifetz listened to the recording and heard a number of things that he “believed … took place because the class only contains children with autism who have trouble communicating.” Chaifetz made a YouTube video about what he heard on the recording:
In the tape, one staff member can be heard bragging to another about how much she drank the night before. …
Later in the recording, a teacher speaks to students in a harsh tone, then tells a student — allegedly Akian — “shut your mouth.”
More clips are presented later in the recording, allegedly showing teachers dismissing and mocking Akian as he cried, but it was unclear from the audio what was being said.
Chaifetz has called for the teachers to issue a public apology to Akian and to resign from their jobs but said he is not planning to sue the school district. He is calling for a legislative bill under which teachers who bully students must be fired.
More Reports of Parents Having Special Ed Students Wear Recording Devices
An animal rights activist and former school board candidate, Chaifetz went on a week-long hunger stirke five years ago to call attention to a lack of state funding for developmentally disabled children and children at risk. He is not the first parent who has had a child with disabilities secretly wear a recording device. Last year, an an Ohio mother had her teenage daughter with special needs wear a wire to record abusive comments made by classroom staff in a resource room; an aide was heard telling the student that she was “dumb,” a “liar,” “lazy” and overweight. The family was awarded $300,000 for the bullying by school staff.
In addition, in 2008, a mother of an autistic boy, Stefan Ferrari, sewed a microphone into his shirt after suspecting that he was abused in his Atlanta classroom. Stefan’s parents sued the school district and his former teacher, Sherri Jones, was charged with making abusive comments; Stefan had also been physically abused and had bruises on his legs. While the judge ruled that he had been hit by an adult at the school, who was responsible for the abuse has yet to be determined and Jones herself has denied physically abusing Stefan. The school district was ordered to pay Stefan’s family about $236,000, almost $800,000 for the district’s and own lawyers and ”a certain amount of money,” into a trust fund for Stefan’s education.
As Nirvi Shah writes on Education Week’s On Special Education blog, “is this what it has come to?” Is this what it’s like to work in and be a student in a special education classroom today, an atmosphere of potential verbal and physical abuse and deep distrust between school personnel and parents?
Creating a Contention-Free Special Education Parent-School Relationship
My autistic son Charlie will be 15 years old next month and has only been in special education classrooms and schools for his entire education.
Photo by basykes
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