The father of an 11-year-old boy said he was left speechless and distraught when his son with autism was presented the “Most Annoying Male” award at an end-of-the-year academic ceremony.
Rick Castejon told the Times of Northwest Indiana that he was astonished when his son was given a trophy in front of his fifth-grade classmates, parents, and the school’s principal that read:
Bailey Preparatory Academy 2018-2019 Most Annoying Male.
“We were blindsided. We just weren’t expecting it. As a principal or teacher, you should never let this happen to any student.”
The dad said he wasn’t sure how to process the event but didn’t want to make a scene even after his son’s teacher jokingly reminded him not to forget the boy’s gold plaque.
It wasn’t until Castejon got home to tell his wife about the humiliating incident that he realized his son, who is nonverbal and occasionally rocks back and forth when he’s troubled, was being shamed for his disability.
“Just because they have special needs doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.”
Commenters reacting to the news on Twitter also slammed the teacher for giving the 11-year-old a trophy for being “annoying.” One person wrote:
Is it really an award? To me, it’s shaming. Should’ve put his name and picture to it. School is supposed to be inclusive.
The parents notified the school principal following the event, and the special education teacher was disciplined.
Peter Morikis, a spokesperson for Gary Community School Corporation, said in a statement:
An apology was extended on behalf of the district to the family, and disciplinary action was taken against personnel involved.
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.
Castejon said he took action so that other kids with special needs wouldn’t go through the same embarrassment.