A special education teacher in Gary, Indiana mocked one of her autistic students at an end-of-year event by presenting the fifth-grader with a trophy naming him the “most annoying male” of the school year, according to The Times of Northwest Indiana.
The student’s father, Rick Castejon, told The Times his son was presented the trophy at a fifth-grade awards luncheon for Bailly Preparatory Academy students — in front of peers, parents and the school principal.
“We were blindsided. We just weren’t expecting it,” Castejon said. "As a principal or teacher, you should never let this happen to any student."
In a statement this week, Gary Community School Corp. emergency manager Peter Morikis said the incident, which occurred last month, was addressed as soon as school officials were alerted by the boy’s parents, according to a statement provided to The Times.
"The Gary Community School Corporation does not condone this type of behavior and will continue to put the safety and well-being of our students first. We extend our deepest apologies to the impacted student, the family and anyone else who take offense to this unfortunate occurrence."
After the award was presented to his son during the ceremony, Castejon said he tried to leave without picking it up from the awards table — but the teacher who presented it reminded him to take it. He said she tried to play it off as a joke.
But all throughout the school year, the same teacher called Castejon numerous times with concerns about his son’s behavior, which he thought strange for a special education teacher.
Castejon told The Times that his “11-year-old is nonverbal, occasionally rocks back and forth and can become easily emotional.”
“They called me all the time if he didn’t want to work, would cry or would have a breakdown,” Castejon said. “A special needs education teacher should know how to handle these things.”
Though school officials did not identify the teacher involved or discuss her employment status, Castejon said “the emergency manager discussed putting the teacher on a two-week suspension and would possibly fire the teacher.”
The father said his primary concern is that such an incident does not happen to any students in the future.
“Just because they have special needs doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.”