I’ve maintained all along that teachers found to be verbally abusing their students should be made accountable for their actions, regardless of whether the offence was captured without their knowledge. Even though I am of this opinion, I completely object to the secret filming of teachers by students.
To read that parents are now wiring their own children to prove allegations made against teachers is very disappointing and a trend that needs to be stamped out:
Teachers hurled insults like “bastard,” ”tard,” ”damn dumb” and “a hippo in a ballerina suit.” A bus driver threatened to slap one child, while a bus monitor told another, “Shut up, you little dog.”
They were all special needs students, and their parents all learned about the verbal abuse the same way — by planting audio recorders on them before sending them off to school.
In cases around the country, suspicious parents have been taking advantage of convenient, inexpensive technology to tell them what children, because of their disabilities, are not able to express on their own. It’s a practice that can help expose abuses, but it comes with some dangers.
This week, a father in Cherry Hill, N.J., posted on YouTube clips of secretly recorded audio that caught one adult calling his autistic 10-year-old son “a bastard.” In less than three days, video got 1.2 million views, raising the prominence of the small movement. There have been at least nine similar cases across the U.S. since 2003.
“If a parent has any reason at all to suggest a child is being abused or mistreated, I strongly recommend that they do the same thing,” said Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association.
But George Giuliani, executive director of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and director of special education at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., says that while the documented mistreatment of children has been disturbing, secret recordings are a bad idea. They could, he said, violate the privacy rights of other children.
“We have to be careful that we’re not sending our children in wired without knowing the legal issues,” Giuliani said.
Stuart Chaifetz, the Cherry Hill father, said he began getting reports earlier in the school year that his 10-year-old son, Akian, was being violent.
Hitting teachers and throwing chairs were out of character for the boy, who is in a class with four other autistic children and speaks but has serious difficulty expressing himself. Chaifetz said he talked to school officials and had his son meet with a behaviorist. There was no explanation for the way Akian was acting.
“I just knew I had to find out what was happening there,” he said. “My only option was to put a recorder there. I needed to hear what a normal day was like in there.”
On the recording, he heard his son being insulted — and crying at one point.
He shared the audio with school district officials. The superintendent said in a statement that “the individuals who are heard on the recording raising their voices and inappropriately addressing children no longer work in the district.”
Since taking the story public, Chaifetz, who has run unsuccessfully for the school board in Cherry Hill and once went on a hunger strike to protest special-education funding cuts, said he has received thousands of emails.
At least a few dozen of those he has had a chance to read have been from parents asking for advice about investigating alleged mistreatment of their children.
Mr. Chaifetz is clearly a loving father with the very best of intentions. Whilst I don’t advocate his methods, I understand that it comes from the frustration and shock of having his son labelled as a violent child. But the difference between Mr. Chaifetz and future copycat parents is that he underwent a long protracted process before going down this road. I fear that parents will be wiring their children in the first instance. It is also important to note that autistic children don’t have the same capacity to stand up for themselves and communicate verbal offences to their parents.
Teachers shouldn’t wire themselves to prove abuse on the part of students and vice versa. What we should be doing is working together instead of creating an us vs them mentality.
Tags: Akian, Cherry Hill, Disabilities, Education, George Giuliani, Hofstra University, National Association of Special Education Teachers, National Autism Association, News, Parenting, Parents, privacy, professional conduct, Recording, Special Needs, Stuart Chaifetz, YouTube