A luncheon event for a fifth-grade class turned surreal for one father when his 11-year-old autistic son was given the “most annoying male” award.
Speaking to NWI Times, Rick Castejon explained that his son is nonverbal and can sometimes be difficult because he easily becomes emotional. But Castejon was still shocked when his son was given a trophy inscribed with “BAILEY PREPARATORY ACADEMY 2018-2019 MOST ANNOYING MALE” during an awards luncheon at the Merrillville Golden Corral for the students of Bailly Preparatory Academy.
What made it worse was that the award was given by the boy’s special education teacher and in front of all the students, parents, and the principal.
When Castejon tried to leave without taking the trophy, the teacher prodded him to take it. He added, “We were blindsided. We just weren’t expecting it. As a principal or teacher, you should never let this happen to any student.”
WDEL reported that the boy wasn’t aware of the significance of the trophy and even proudly showed it off to his mom when he got home.
The school had contacted Castejon about his son during the school year. He recalled, “They called me all the time if he didn’t want to work, would cry or would have a breakdown. A special needs education teacher should know how to handle these things.” But four days after the shocking incident, he noted that the teacher was not present at a fifth-grade graduation celebration.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “A child or adult with autism spectrum disorder may have problems with social interaction and communication skills, including any of these signs: Fails to respond to his or her name or appears not to hear you at time … Doesn’t speak or has delayed speech, or loses previous ability to say words or sentences … A child or adult with autism spectrum disorder may have limited, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities, including any of these signs: Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand flapping.
Peter Morikis, emergency manager for Gary Community School Corp., confirmed the incident to the NWI Times, saying, “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.”
Morikis added, “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.”
He also stated that suspension was being considered and even firing the teacher altogether.
According to the NWI Times, “Castejon said prior to the award incident, his family already had plans to move to Valparaiso and does not intend to send his son to Gary schools next year.”
Castejon concluded, “We just don’t want any other kids to go through this. Just because they have special needs doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.”
“Woman With Autism Breaks All Barriers And Becomes Florida’s First Autistic Lawyer”