President Ronald Reagan had a Russian proverb he liked to use when discussing relations with the Soviet Union: “Trust but verify.” I would suggest this philosophy should also apply regarding anyone in a position of authority over vulnerable children with special needs -- particularly autism. We need systems of verification to ensure against malfeasance, rather than only trust that people will always do the right thing when charged with responsibility over an autistic child. The disgusting revelation regarding what recently happened to a child with autism in a segregated classroom is a case in point.
Here’s the update:
A ten year old child was bullied by his special needs teachers in a classroom that was designed to teach children with autism! This behavior was uncovered by a smart father who wired his child with a recording device and thereby discovered the horrendous daily torment his child was experiencing. The father, Stuart Chaifetz, created a video and posted it on youtube to expose the disgusting practice which occurred in the Cherry Hill School District in New Jersey.
Chaifetz, is attempting to clean up the school district and rightly so! His goal is to pass legislation that requires teachers to be fired immediately upon discovery of bullying behavior. He has a petition that he’d like people to sign [Petition is now closed]
I’d like to suggest that this does not go far enough. What is required in my view, is systemic change. The failure here is not about people, but rather, about a system where there are no checks and safeguards to protect disabled children.
There is one solution that is quite straightforward. Parents need to have a choice regarding whether they would like their child in a special needs classroom that has constant video surveillance. Those parents who choose this type of classroom for their children will never have to worry again. There are those who would argue that teachers’ rights are infringed upon due to this type of surveillance. In a contest of competing rights, it’s obvious the child’s rights must always trump the rights of the worker.
Until there is a 100% reliable way to verify that children with special needs are being treated properly, regrettably this type of abuse will continue. We need good systems, not good intentions!
If you’d like more detail about this horrendous incident, here is the video created by Stuart Chaifetz, the child’s father.
This is the reason I have trust issues. I have a 3 year old autistic son who means the world to me and I don!t take kindly to people who inject poison into our innocent children. My son is unable to talk but I am sure he hears everything. When educators allow themselves to stoop to this level, it is time for them to find a different line of work.
This sadly does happen on a daily basis... I've seen this happen personally and well it's actually downright disgusting. The WORST part is that it's happening in places where autism is known, and these people are supposed to be "trained" but most of the time they just want to put this kind of job experience on a resume. I definitely agree with recording the classes. I don't think the recordings should be available to the public (i.e. parents) as I do believe the teachers should have privacy within a classroom. With that being said I would suggest that the principal of the school or a designated team of teachers/principals should be reviewing recordings of the classes just to ensure that the classes are being conducted in an appropriate manner.
About Me: Sabrina Freeman, Ph.D. (1958-) was born in Montreal, Quebec, and grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. She graduated from Stanford University in 1995 with a Ph.D. in Sociology, specializing in small group research and the study of organizations. Upon her return to British Columbia, Freeman spent 14 years advocating for the rights of children with autism to be included in the government funded health care system for their core health need -- autism treatment.