A special education teacher gave an 11-year-old autistic student the "Most Annoying Male" award at a luncheon in front of students, the school's principal — and most notably, the boy's father, the Northwest Indiana Times reported.
A hush fell over the end-of-year awards ceremony last month at Bailly Preparatory Academy in Gary, Indiana, when the teacher presented the trophy to the fifth grader, his dad told the paper.
"We were blindsided. We just weren't expecting it," Rick Castejon added to the paper. "As a principal or teacher, you should never let this happen to any student."
The trophy is inscribed "BAILEY PREPARATORY ACADEMY 2018-2019 MOST ANNOYING MALE," the paper said.
That isn't all
Castejon said he didn't want to make a scene and tried to leave the trophy on a table at the Merrillville Golden Corral when the luncheon was over — but the teacher who gave the award to his son actually approached him and reminded him to not forget the trophy, behaving as if it was a big joke, the paper said.
The boy's father added to the Times that it wasn't until he arrived home and shared what happened with his wife that the reality of what transpired fully hit him.
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He said throughout the school year, his son's teachers routinely called home with concerns about how to handle the fifth-grader's behavior, but it wasn't until his son was presented the "Most Annoying Male" award that Castejon said he felt real concern. Now, Castejon is left wondering if these calls home were contributing factors in the trophy his son was presented last month.
Castejon described some of his son's mannerisms as a student with autism. The 11-year-old is nonverbal, occasionally rocks back and forth and can become easily emotional, his father said.
"They called me all the time if he didn't want to work, would cry or would have a breakdown," Castejon told the Times. "A special needs education teacher should know how to handle these things."
How did the school district respond?
The boy's parents brought up the incident with district officials, and Gary Community School Corp. emergency manager Peter Morikis told the paper he met with the family and that disciplinary action was taken against the personnel involved.
"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," Morikis said in a statement to the Times. "We extend our deepest apologies to the impacted student, the family and anyone else who take offense to this unfortunate occurrence."
He added that district officials "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," the paper said.
Castejon told the Times that Morikis discussed putting the teacher on a two-week suspension and would possibly fire the teacher, adding that his son's teacher was absent from fifth-grade graduation last week.
But Morikis declined to comment to the paper on the employment status of any school personnel involved in the matter, the paper said, adding that he also wouldn't identify the teacher involved.
Castejon added to the Times that his family already planned a move to Valparaiso, so his son won't be attending Gary schools‚ but he wanted to make his voice heard so that other special-needs students don't go through a similar experience.
"Just because they have special needs doesn't mean they don't have feelings," he told the paper.