Bullying by the Teacher – An Inexcusable Oxymoron.

[Wednesday is usually Almost Wordless Wednesday here.  It will be again next week.  Almost Wordless Wednesday has been interrupted for this special post on an issue that is part of what I, personally want to kill, disintegrate, and annihilate with awareness – Bullying.]

Naive?  Yes, thank you, perhaps I am.  And if you want to stay that way – do not read this post.  The incident I am about to describe to you is not the only one, as you will see below.

Stuart Chaifetz

This father, Stuart Chaifetz, taped his 10 year old autistic son’s classroom to find out what would trigger his non-violent son to hit his teachers at school.  The boy had never done it before.  A behaviorist was called in to set up a situation that might provoke him to lash out but he did not.  The child was simply not violent.  After six months, the dad took it into his own hands, wired his partially non-verbal son, and got answers.  Disturbing answers.

Turns out, his child’s female teacher and her aide were verbally abusing his 10 year old boy with insults, calling him a bastard, telling him he would not be able to see his dad after visitation with his mom (a lie and a source of high anxiety for the child – known to the teachers).  All in all, intentionally hurting and emotionally abusing a child who could not tell on them – a 10 year old boy trusted to their care.  

Stuart Chaifetz, posted a video about it on YouTube.  Here it is:

If you do not have time or cannot watch for emotional reasons, he called for a public apology and resignation of the teacher (who was merely transferred to another school) and the aide (who was actually fired, having admitted on the tape to showing up to work drunk after a night of drinking wine).

You can help Stuart by signing the petition to terminate the employment of any teacher who bullies children, here.

So what, you ask?  All kids get bullied at some point?  It happens to everyone?  They’re just kids?  He’ll get over it?  I pity those who chose to minimize this.  If a teacher is willing to verbally abuse the students, what is to stop them from escalating the abuse to culminate in a student’s death, like that of Aaron Hatcher.  Bullying is abusive, whether it is physical or verbal.  It has serious and long term effects.

This information is from this bullying statistics website.

Verbal bullying can be just as harmful – in different ways – as physical bullying. With verbal bullying, the goal is still to degrade and demean the victim, while making the aggressor look dominant and powerful. All bullying focuses on creating a situation in which the victim is dominated by the aggressor. And this can happen verbally as well as physically.

Verbal bullying can affect self image, and affect someone in emotional and psychological ways. This type of bullying can lead to low self-esteem, as well as depression and other problems. It can aggravate problems that a victim may already be experiencing at home or in other places. In some cases, verbal bullying can reach a point where the victim is so depressed, and wants to escape so badly, that he or she may turn to substance abuse or  – in some extreme cases  – suicide. In the end, words have a power all their own, and the realities of verbal bullying can have very physical consequences, even if the aggressor never lays a finger on the victim.

This long-term horror story for this child is over but it took the dad extreme measure to get to the bottom of it.  How many of us would even know how to wire our child?  How many of our kids would not pull the wire off due to sensory needs?

It’s about more than bullying – it’s about a lot of other things including abuse of power and trust.  Parents have no choice but to trust the teachers to whom they hand over the care of what is most precious to them – their children.  In the case of a special needs, non-verbal child, it is vitally important that a parent be able to trust the teacher because there is often no way for the parent assure the safety of the child because we are not there.

Because our children cannot tell us.

They often cannot comprehend, associate or verbalize why they are upset, scared, depressed, or sad after a teacher verbally abuses them.  Someone they are supposed to look up to, to lean on, to learn from, to care for.

Is this just an odd, isolated incident?  Yes, probably – but not the only one.  Why didn’t the school district fire the teacher?  Because they feared the teacher’s union?  Because they were more afraid of a lawsuit by the teacher than the student’s parent(s)?  Because they figured there would just be two lawsuits instead of one?  It has to be about money because it’s always about money.

This incident was not an issue of the child’s word against that of the teacher – this parent had taped the conversation.

Do these teachers think they have an expectation of privacy when they are alone with our children entrusted to their care that would allow them not to be taped without their consent?  Who cares?  Should they have such a right?  Not if you ask me.  Or should we be able turn our televisions on and see our children in class at any time during the day with live, streaming video when they are teaching special needs children to see what’s happening in class?

Please do not think these two idiots that Stuart caught, masquerading as teachers, are the only ones.

Look here for the story of the 14 year old female special needs student abused by her teachers, caught on tape:

And here:

And here:

and here for the choking of a special needs (cerebral palsy) student who uses a walker:

and of course, look to the death of Aaron Hatcher here.

What is happening?  Lazy administrators?  Poor hiring decisions?  Lack of pay?  Lack of oversight?  What kinds of changes in the law do we need to safeguard our children better than it’s done now?

I think that television monitoring system is an exquisite idea.  Send a tape home for the entirety of the school day- every day.  Everywhere the child is so should a camera be.  Always watching, always assuring appropriate behavior by those entrusted with this type of care.

I also advocate periodic psychological testing of those who teach special needs children to assess any changes in stress, anger, behavior, and training and retraining that is meaningful and specific with removal of any teacher whose psychological evaluation even slightly indicates a problem.

It is inexcusable that parents and students end up wiring or surreptitiously taping teachers to prove allegations of abuse.

Luckily, I have not been exposed to what is shown here on a personal level of any kind.  My son has amazing, loving caring teachers.  I know the vast majority of educators are good, caring people with the right intentions.  This post is not about them.  This post is about the rotten apples.  How do they get there?  How do we prevent it?  What can we change?  If we sweep it under the rug, how will it get fixed?

Dialogue is where it starts.  Don’t let this one be solo.


About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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18 Responses to Bullying by the Teacher – An Inexcusable Oxymoron.

  1. Mom2MissK says:

    I saw Stuart Chaifetz’s story making the rounds yesterday and signed the petition. It’s such a crying shame that ANY child has to deal with this sort of thing — much less a special needs child. Thanks for getting the word out and re-posting, Karen!

    • solodialogue says:

      I don’t know what that petition will do. At the very least, it will get the lawmakers in New Jersey to think about this issue, though so that has to be good – for a start.

  2. Flannery says:

    I vacillate between outrage and extreme sadness. What is happening in our world when children are treated this way by school personnel?

    • solodialogue says:

      Thank you for being a leader on this one Flan and making me aware. I have those same feelings. I’m sure the vast majority of teachers are caring, hard-working wonderful people. I know a lot of them. But the rotten apples definitely try to stink up the bunch and must be removed – permanently.

  3. Because I used to be a teacher, it is so hard for me to imagine teachers being so mean, but I know it happens. I have a hard time understanding how anyone can bully children or call any child a name. I couldn’t watch the YouTube because it will affect me too much. But thank you for raising awareness. Smart dad! 🙂 Sam

    • solodialogue says:

      Very smart dad. I’m sad that his son had to endure this for six (6) months. That just sickens me, knowing that the teachers were sitting in on these IEP meetings and lying and covering up. There is a special place way down under for those two. 😦

  4. Lisa says:

    What these teachers have done is unconsionable. It is an abuse of power. It angers and saddens me. I feel badly for the students who were subject to this bullying. We are blessed and our son’s teachers and therapists have been absolutely wonderful…every child should be so lucky.

    • solodialogue says:

      I don’t even think we can call them “teachers” – they are charlatans – and yes – total abusers of power. As I mentioned on Facebook this morning, I think that this kind of abuse seems to come out more when the children are a little older than ours. I don’t know if this means that it is less likely with the younger ones or whether we just don’t know but we must remain ever vigilant about our children no matter what their ages.

      And while I have the soap box, I did want to mention that I’ve always had a bad feeling in my gut when the school administrators have offered me a 1-1 aide for my son from the school district to replace the current ABA aide he has at his private kindergarten. I now understand that instinct. If the school district pays the salary of the aide, is it more or less likely that the aide will help the school district cover up any wrongdoing? That’s just the way of the world. Money always holds some power – this is why I think it should be mandatory that any child aide be separate and distinct from the school and compensated from another independent source. It is another check and balance to keep everyone honest and protect our children.

  5. Oh Karen. I can’t even write anything coherent right now. I’m just sick. I’ll check back in later.

  6. karacteristic says:

    How can we ever expect the children in our schools to refrain from bullying when the adults who care for them model that behavior. It’s inexcusable.

  7. Lizbeth says:

    This disturbs me on so many levels. The only good, and ONLY good that has come from this is that when I was picking up Alex from school today, a dad came up and asked me what I thought of it. He knows Alex has Autism and wanted to tell me how sick he was thinking that could happen to Alex and any one of our kids. Up until today that man was a random stranger to me. I asked him to get online and sign the petition.

  8. utkallie says:

    This whole thing just fires me up and sickens me. I’m so glad it’s getting national attention now.

  9. Nicki Smith says:

    I am in disbelief. Thank you for giving this attention!

  10. eof737 says:

    Gosh This is too disturbing to comprehend. Frankly, all of them should be prosecuted and go to jail. I am disgusted!!!!!

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