Looks like the Garden State is taking center stage in the education world. Two of the biggest stories in the nation around schools are happening right here.
Start with this astonishing story in Cherry Hill:
After receiving reports that his son had become prone to violent outbursts, Stuart Chaifetz sent autistic 10-year-old Aikan to Horace Mann Elementary School with a recording device.
Akian came back with 6.5 hours of tape filled with verbal and emotional abuse from his classroom aide and teacher. Stuart Chaifetz documented the tape and published it in a YouTube video.
According to Collingswood Patch, Chaifetz replays portions of audio with his son’s special education teacher Kelly Altenburg and aide Jodi Sgouros. In the recording, voices tell Akian that he is “such a bastard,” order him to “shut his mouth,” and tell the child “no” when he asks for reassurances that he will see his father soon.
Stuart Chaifetz has started a website, a Facebook page, and placed a petition on Change.org asking New Jersey legislators to enact a zero tolerance policy for bullying by teachers or educational staff. “I’ve gotten dozens of emails from parents in smiliar situations,” he said, according to babble.com. “Special needs adults are contacting me about teachers bullying them in school.”
Cherry Hill Public School District spokesperson Susan Bastnagel said that the incident is a “personnel matter that the district took seriously and handled appropriately,” according to the Huffington Post. The aide was reportedly fired, but Altenburg was moved to another class.
According to Fox 8, Chaifetz has no plans to sue, but he would like to see the teachers in the video make a public apology and resign. Recent early research suggests that more than 60 percent of American children with autism spectrum disorders have been bullied, and 47 percent of students from fifth-grade have faced bullying.
Akian Chaifetz has been transferred to another school and is doing quite well, according to reports.
I listened to the audio on Chaifetz’s YouTube post, and it is disturbing. It’s hard to see how any of what’s posted could be justified. But the Cherry Hill school district has given what I consider a measured and reasonable response: