Abuse of any nature is a disgraceful act. In the majority of cases it leads to physical and mental trauma which can be with a person for the rest of their life. Belittling anyone because of a factor that separates the victim from his/her oppressor is a poor example of human intelligence. The Office for National Statistics in the United Kingdom state that children with special educational needs due to a mental disability are nearly four times more likely to fall victim to many forms of abuse from carers, teachers, hospital staff and even their own parents.
One story which caught my eye earlier in 2012 was that of Stuart Chaifetz, father to a 10-year old autistic boy, Akian. Mr. Chaifetz posted a video to Youtube explaining his anger after he discovered employees at his child’s school were being verbally abusive to Akian. While this in itself is distressing enough, Mr. Chaifetz only learned of the abuse after wiring his child with a listening device, hearing the offensive language and taunts of the teachers as they spoke. Drastic actions by an over-protective father? No. Chaifetz carried out this action six months after disturbing reports from the school that Akian was ‘acting up’, throwing chairs and hitting other students. “None of it made sense because he had never been violent before”, said the father in his video. The wire tap was necessary as the reports were so unlike Akian’s normal behaviour and the class itself contained no surveillance devices of their own. Furthermore, many of the children in the class- including Akian- had severe communication difficulties, unable to speak.
Of the staff in the class who abused Akian, only one was fired. Her name was Jodi. This woman was heard calling children “bastards” and aggressively shouting at them to be silent. Conversations between the teachers and aids ranged from alcohol abuse to complaining about children’s parents in front of the class. They were also heard colluding to undermine the conversations between Akian’s father and themselves at the regular Parent/Teacher Meetings. While the school took disciplinary action against the staff in question, my issue with this story is Horace Mann Elementary School’s lack of security. As already mentioned, the class did not have security camera’s installed, and regrettably it still does not. In the “interests of privacy” many SEN schools like Horace Mann Elementary do not have a robust classroom surveillance system, which in my opinion is vital in the protection of children against people such as Jodi. It’s time for parents to become more active in ensuring the safety of their children in the classroom and other places where they should feel secure. There is no need for paranoia but much like Stuart Chaifetz who saw through the dishonesty, we all need to be more wary of such dangers in order to cut down on the hundreds of cases each year of autistic child abuse just like Akian’s.
Please, if you support the call for cameras in special needs classrooms, sign the petition.
For more on this, please read my interview with Tara Heidinger, campaigner for cameras in special needs classrooms.
Chirs McKee also authored Accept of Reject. More guest posts can be found here.