An article in The Times of Northwest Indiana shared the story of An 11 year old boy with Autism, Akalis Castejon, who is non-verbal, received the “Most annoying Male” award by his Special Ed. teacher at at Bailly Preparatory Academy. The award was given at a fifth-grade awards luncheon, which was attended by students, parents, and the school principal.
Fortunately for the parents, Akalis did not fully understand the meaning of the award and was only excited to receive it because it was gold and shiny. When his father was leaving the event, he purposely left the award on the table, but the boy’s teacher took note and reminded them not to forget to take the award home, as if it was all an attempted joke.
Akalis’ mother did not attend the event, but went to the school the next day to demand an apology. To the family’s surprise, Akalis’ teacher and principal did not apologize in regards to the matter. However, the school board, Gary Community School Corp., has since apologized to the family for the incident and promises disciplinary action against the teacher, which could be a two-week suspension and possible dismissal.
The reason Akalis’ parents chose to speak out is so that other students, especially with special needs, never experience similar treatment.
This news story raises awareness to the possible circumstances that could occur in the world, specifically school settings. Special education teachers spend a lot of time with different forms of special needs students, and should be patient and know how to treat them. This is certainly an unfortunate event and is disrespectful and hurtful, especially coming from a school. It does not only highlight Autism, but also forms of bullying.
Like Akalis, my brother is non-verbal, actively fidgets and moves around, and goes through emotions quite easily when routines are changed or he does not like an activity or event. In highschool, my brother would usually attempt to run away from the special ed. Teachers and say “go home”, which is one of the few phrases he knows. A story like this touches my heart because it was always a fear of mine growing up. Students that are non-verbal are easy victims for teachers and other students as they cannot advise anybody at home about what is occurring at school. There was a communication system in place where his teachers would document his day and state the challenges and difficulties he faced, but if something went wrong or he had a bad day, they would implicate him as ‘misbehaving’ or having a ‘random tantrum’. Due to the fact that we went to the same highschool, there were times that I was advised or witnessed acts by his teachers that were wrong, such as not feeding him during lunch hours some days and later writing that ‘he was not hungry’ or leaving him alone, but telling him he cannot join in activities.
In conclusion, stories similar to this happen worldwide, but many people are blind to the occurrence each and every day. I appreciate the Castejon family for sharing this story in the hopes to raise awareness to schools and individuals globally to ensure that this does not occur in the near future.