Stuart Chaifetz: Educators verbally abused autistic student

10:31 AM, Apr 25, 2012   |    comments
(via Courier Post Online)
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  • CHERRY HILL, NJ (COURIER POST ONLINE) - A father who sent his 10-year-old autistic son to school with a digital tape recorder released a video Monday in which he alleges verbal abuse by the boy's teacher and other adult staff.

    Stuart Chaifetz contends what he heard on the six and a half hours of audio recorded Feb. 17 at Horace Mann Elementary School includes an adult he can't identify calling his son, Akian, "a bastard."

    In a YouTube video in which he references audio portions of his son's day, Chaifetz describes "disgusting and vile" bullying of Akian, saying the boy at one point is brought to tears.

    Chaifetz says he took the audio to school officials in February, and "to their credit, they took immediate action and fired one aide" the same month.

    But Chaifetz says on the video he wants an apology from school staff and legislative action regarding student bullying. And in an interview Monday, he questioned why his son's teacher still works in the district.

    "I thought this would be enough to get a teacher fired, but apparently not," said Chaifetz, 44, an investigator for an animal protections group.

    District spokeswoman Susan Bastnagel described the incident Monday as "a personnel matter that the district took seriously and handled quickly and appropriately." Bastnagel, who had no further comment, did not confirm anyone was fired or that the teacher remains with the district.

    Chaifetz is no stranger to Cherry Hill schools. He once went on a hunger strike to protest cuts in special ed and twice ran unsuccessfully for a school board seat.

    Chaifetz said his son's "negative behaviors that no one could explain" in the first six months of the school year led him to send Akian to school with a digital recorder attached to his clothing. Chaifetz said the school was reporting uncharacteristic outbursts by Akian that included hitting a teacher and aide.
    Chaifetz said Akian can talk but that his communication is impaired, and he was unable to describe to his father what was upsetting him.

    "When I heard the audio, my life was forever changed," Chaifetz wrote in a press release Monday.

    "As a father and an activist and a human being, I could not stay quiet," he said.

    Chaifetz says he sent a letter to the district earlier this month again asking why the teacher wasn't fired and got no response. That's when he decided to go public. He says if the district doesn't take further action, he will release the names of the aide and teacher.

    In another case last December, Gloucester County Special Services District teacher Steven Roth was seen in a secretly recorded cellphone video berating a 15-year-old special needs student and apparently calling him a "tard."

    Roth was immediately suspended without pay from Bankbridge Regional School.

    Meanwhile, Chaifetz insisted, "I didn't want this to be an attack against the school. They did everything they could, but they seem to have hit a wall.

    "And it's that wall I'm against."


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