Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Verbal abuse of autistic student sparks calls for special ed reform in Cherry Hill, New Jersey

When harsh words flew in a classroom for autistic children here, the school employees who spoke them likely thought no one in authority would ever hear.
“Shut up,” shouted one staffer, unaware that a digital recorder was hidden in the pocket of 10-year-old Akian Chaifetz.
“Go ahead and scream because guess what? You’re going to get nothing until your mouth is shut.

“Oh Akian, you are a bastard.”
But after the boy’s father, Stuart Chaifetz, released excerpts of the tape in an online video last week, millions of people learned what was said at the Horace Mann Elementary School.
Now, educators and others are trying to figure out just what the incident means.
“What happened in the classroom is not excusable and should not have happened,” Cherry Hill school officials said in a statement Friday. But while vowing to learn from the experience, the officials assert, “We believe this regrettable incident is an anomaly.”
Others aren’t so sure. They say special-education programs in many communities may lack the support and expertise needed to benefit children with disabilities.
Staffers who abuse special-education students “don’t appear to have the skills they need and clearly don’t have the supervision they need,” said Brenda Considine, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Coalition for Special Education Funding Reform.
“It’s ironic that this stuff is garnering so much attention because we just passed one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the country aimed at stopping kids from bullying one another,” said Considine. “Here’s clear-cut evidence that (school employees) are engaged in bullying.”
Read more of Jim Walsh and Phil Dunn's The Daily Journal article HERE.
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