An elementary school in Indiana has apologized after one of its fifth-grade students, who is autistic, was given an award for being “most annoying.”
The father of the boy, Rick Castejon, said he was stunned when the special education teacher presented his son with an unexpected award during an awards luncheon at a local restaurant for the Bailly Preparatory Academy in May—an event attended by students, numerous parents, and the school principal. The trophy was inscribed with “Most Annoying Male.”
“We were blindsided. We just weren’t expecting it,” Castejon told The Times of Northwest Indiana. “As a principal or teacher, you should never let this happen to any student.”
Castejon said he tried to leave the trophy on the table at the Golden Corral restaurant in Merrillville but was approached by his son’s teacher, who reminded him to not forget to bring it home, while acting as if it was a joke, the newspaper reported.
It was not until Castejon got home that the realization of what had happened set in.
He said his son, who is non-verbal, would sometimes rock back and forth and is prone to becoming emotional. He said the school calls him “all the time” over how to handle his son.
“A special needs education teacher should know how to handle these things,” Castejon told the media outlet.
The father then contacted school administration, who apologized and said they would take action, including the possibility of suspension and termination.
In a statement to the Times, Peter Morikis, an emergency manager with the Gary Community School Corporation, said that the corporation does not “condone this type of behavior and will continue to put the safety and well-being of our students first.”
“We acknowledge the potential impact that an experience like this could have on a child’s mental well-being, self-esteem and overall level of comfortability in a learning environment going forward,” Morikis stated.
Castejon said he was happy with the school’s response. He added that prior to the incident, his family had plans to move out of the district but he wanted to share his family’s story so that other students with special needs and family would not have to go through a similar experience as they did.
“Just because they have special needs doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings,” the father added.
UK Mother Sues School
In a similar story, a mother in the UK has sued a school because they asked her son to wear a high-visibility vest to help teachers know he is autistic.
Mother Joanne Logan is suing a London elementary school at the disability tribunal, accusing the school of discriminating against her son Charlie, 7, for being autistic by requiring him to wear a bright yellow vest during break times earlier in the year, as previously reported by The Epoch Times.
She became “furious” after hearing Charlie complain about feeling uncomfortable about having to wear the vest at school.
“I was made to wear a yellow bib in the playground, and it felt really bad and it felt really wrong, and I didn’t really want to because it was singling me out. No one else had one,” he said in a YouTube video published on March 27.
She was particularly upset because she claims the school had never informed her that Charlie was required to wear the vest. She told the Mirror: “Charlie was being singled out in the playground. He was the only one wearing a bib—and that’s how discrimination starts.”
The school argued that Logan was aware that Charlie would have to wear the bib and other students also wear bibs in the playground for different reasons. However, Logan disputes how clearly this information was relayed to her. She maintains she would not have consented, had she known exactly what this entailed.
A spokesperson from the local Hillingdon Council confirmed that “reflective vests are not compulsory wear for anyone and are only used with parental consent” at that school.
After Logan complained to the school, Charlie did not have to wear the vest anymore. The relationship with the school deteriorated so badly, she decided to move Charlie to another school.
Logan is taking legal action to win a landmark case so Charlie and other children will never have to stand out among their peers again.
“I just want to make sure that no other autistic child needs to be put through what we did and it needs to be challenged—and, if this case is won, it could change that,” Logan said.
Richard Szabo contributed to this report.