Cosmo Casamassa has spent years being teased about not fitting in. But he never expected the school district to listen to the bullies.
As WBZ News reports, the 16-year-old from Charlton, Massachusetts has Asperger’s syndrome. And he is the first to acknowledge that it makes it hard for him to relate to his peers at Shepherd Hill Regional High.
Casamassa told WBZ:
“I’m not popular and I’m kind of weird. Schools have to expect that people are different.”
According to Autism Speaks, Asperger’s syndrome is on the “high functioning” end of the autism spectrum. While those with Asperger’s generally do not have delays or difficulties with speech or cognitive development, they can experience difficulties with social interactions, nonverbal communication, and social or emotional issues.
For Casamassa, dealing with Asperger’s means dealing with the bullies who repeatedly call him a “school shooter” because of his different mannerisms and interests.
A common trait of Asperger’s is an “obsession” with a certain topic or hobby, which can be very specific or unusual. Casamassa told WBZ that he has always had an interest in military history, which hasn’t helped the situation:
“Asperger’s, we tend to have, when we know one thing, we know it so well. Since I was four years old, I’ve been studying military history. I do not own any firearms.”
But that doesn’t matter to those who continue to spread the “school shooter” rumors about the teen.
According to NH1, the nickname/accusation has followed Casamassa through three different schools for three straight years. His stepmother, Paulette Reed, told NH1 that Casamassa has been assaulted in a locker room and continually victimized as a result:
“He’s been pulled out of school. He’s been searched.”
Reed suspects that social media has helped Casamassa’s bullies spread the rumor and ensured that the “school shooter” label followed him wherever he went. But last week, with just a few days left in the school year, someone took it even further.
Reed explained to WBZ that “A text went out saying he was going to blow up the school.”
Though the teen didn’t make the threat, the school decided to err on the side of caution. Police and school administrators told Casamassa that he would have to stay home on the last day of school.
It was deeply disappointing for the rising Junior, who told WBZ:
“I wanted to say ‘bye’ to my teachers. Today’s my actual last day as a sophomore.”
School administrators defended the decision, saying that they had to make a last-minute judgment without time to research the source of the threat. While Reed doesn’t blame the school, she believes it was unfair to Casamassa:
“He didn’t do anything wrong. He’s never made a threat to anybody. He has no access to anything.”
Reed said she has contacted authorities about the bullying and isn’t sure if she’ll be able to send Casamassa back to the same school in the fall. She told WBZ, “It’s so sad. It breaks my heart.”