GARY, Ind. - An Indiana man said he felt blindsided when his 11-year-old son, who has autism, was given a “most annoying” award from his fifth grade teacher.
Rick Castejon told The Times of Northwest Indiana that the award was given to his son during a regular, end-of-year awards ceremony at Bailly Preparatory Academy in Gary. Parents fell silent when a teacher for special needs students presented Castejon’s son a trophy with the words, “BAILEY PREPARATORY ACADEMY 2018-2019 MOST ANNOYING MALE” inscribed on it, Castejon said.
“We were blindsided. We just weren’t expecting it,” he said.
Gary Community School Corp. Emergency Manager Peter Morikis confirmed the incident to the newspaper.
Morikis issued a statement that said, in part: "An apology was extended on behalf of the district to the family, and disciplinary action was taken against personnel involved. We acknowledge the potential impact that an experience like this could have on a child's mental well-being, self-esteem and overall level of comfortability in a learning environment going forward."
Castejon’s son is nonverbal, sometimes rocks back and forth and can easily become emotional, Castejon said. Teachers called Castejon a few times during the school year with concerns about how to handle the boy's behavior, he said.
“They called me all the time if he didn’t want to work, would cry or would have a breakdown,” Castejon said. “A special needs education teacher should know how to handle these things.”
After the awards ceremony, Castejon said his family contacted the school administration. Castejon met with Morikis, who Castejon said discussed putting the teacher on a two-week suspension and possibly firing her.
Morikis declined to comment on the employment status of the teacher. However, Castejon said she was absent from a May 27 fifth grade celebration at the school.
“We just don’t want any other kids to go through this,” Castejon said. “Just because they have special needs doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.”
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