Parents Wiring Their Children to Catch Out Abusive Teachers

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.


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3 Responses to “Parents Wiring Their Children to Catch Out Abusive Teachers”

  1. schmittyisms Says:

    Although I respect your view I cannot say I agree. Even more so in this situation. Here you have children that cannot defend themselves or verbally communicate what is happening to them. Most children at a young age will not know what to do in this situation. Who is going to defend the defenseless, who is going to speak up for those who have no voice?
    Maybe we should not have video cameras or recording devices around when the police decide they have had a bad day and they go to beating on a 13 year old kid for skate boarding. I am sorry only people who have something to hide and do not want to be held accountable for their actions will agree to this.
    Your statement on “wiring their children in the first instance” scares me. It is almost like you want to give teachers a “pass or get out of jail free card” sorry but, one instance is one too many.

    You cannot be on both sides of the fence you either want to hold teachers or any authoritative figure accountable or you don’t. If this action is happening how else are you to get the truth? With out evidence its one persons word against another. If the accused are being watched then the abusive behavior will be detoured or they will be able identify the abuser. That is why companies spend countless amount of money on camera security systems. Even schools have went to installing security cameras on their campuses.

    • Michael G. Says:

      Thanks for the comment. I agree that this case is different because the child cannot defend himself on his own. I just wouldn’t like to have a situation where children were allowed to film/tape their teacher. It would completely undermine the teacher and cause great disruption in class.

      Having said that, I am ashamed that teachers who verbally abuse students are still in the classroom. It is these teachers that spoil it for the rest of us. Their actions are not only destructive to their students but to fellow colleagues and the education process as a whole.

  2. Matt Wilson Says:

    It is important to point out that this is not normal. Abusive teachers are the rare exception – not the norm. And if there is a consistently abusive teacher in your school, you have much bigger problems than the teacher him/herself. People just don’t get their teaching credentials so they can make fun of children all day – there is a bigger problem.

    Consider this; what if a teacher suspected some form of abuse at home, and told the child to secretly record their parents. Would you consider this justifiable? Think about how easy it would be to take various things you say completely out of context. Suppose your child gets mad at you for taking away facebook – I’m sure I could turn a bible study into “abuse” with a little creative clipping.

    What if you just had a bad day and snapped – nothing serious – but you dropped an f bomb. I stand behind my teaching 100% but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to one or two moments I would rather not have been caught on audio.

    Be careful, the next time you raise your voice or lose your temper you could have DSS knocking at your door – or worse – you could wake up to find out a recording of you telling off that telemarketer has gone viral under the assumption you were yelling at your son.

    By accepting the resultv you are encouraging the act, no matter what you say. And this practice can not be encouraged. For every abusive teacher that is caught, hundreds of great teachers will have their words twisted and used against them and what will that do to our education system?

    By wiring your child regardless of intentions you are teaching your child not to respect their teachers and the only victim is going to be the quality of education we will be able to provide.

    “Billy, make sure you behave in school today, and do everything your teacher asks you to! Oh, and don’t forget, the wire is in your lunchbox!”

    And then we wonder why Billy talks back to his teacher. If I were Billy at 12 I’d be trying like hell to bait my teacher into losing their temper. A funny joke to a 12 year old means someone who devoited their life to education loses their pension 3 years before retirement.

    You want a simple solution? If you are that concerned, take a day off of work and go observe class for yourself. As a teacher I always invite parents to visit – obviously you must let the school know you are coming, but I have never heard of any school closing its doors to a parent (we practically beg for it), and if it did – you blog about it, call the local news and do what you have to do to protect your child.

    And I know what you are thinking – “well if the teacher knows I’m coming I won’t see him abusing my son”.

    In the words of my students: “Duh, that’s the point!”

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