We consider our schools to be safe havens for our children. We send our prize possessions our children to schools with people we trust to care and nurture them, the teachers. Children spend more of their waking hours in school with teachers, aides and other school personnel than at home with their families. Teachers are considered special, although not paid much, they are thought to be pillars of society, kind, knowledgeable and reliable. The research tells us that students are targeted for bullies because of their differences including race, religion or special needs. Recently, it has come to the forefront that many students are being bullied because of their special educational needs but not by their peers, by their teachers.
So what do we think when we find out that teachers target special needs students to bully. It is suggested that bullying by teachers is more common than you think. However, teacher bullying may go unreported for fear of retribution or not being believed. Denigrating remarks, castigating comments and just plain mean streaks are rained down on students by some teachers. What do you do when your child is a special needs student and not able to speak for themselves or sometimes not believed because they are special needs? Well, several parents of special needs students and one special needs student himself may have come up with the answer.
Can Technology be the answer to bullying? In November, 2011 in Ohio, a mother wired her teenage daughter with a tape recorder to find out what is happening to her fourteen-year-old daughter while in school. The family noticed a change in their special needs daughter who previously loved school and had recently started making up excuses not to go to school. They met with school personnel who reported no changes. The young girl wore the recorder for four days and the parents were shocked with the castigating remarks and bullying of their daughter by the teacher and classroom aide. When the evidence was taken to the school district the aide eventually resigned and the teacher has to attend anti-bullying training. And just this week, April 24, 2012 in New Jersey, a father of a ten-year-old autistic child became concerned when his son was sent home with reports of being violent in school when he was always a nonviolent and sweet child. To find out why his son was changing he decided to wire his son with a tape recorder to find out what was going on in school. His son returned home with six hours of tape laden with bullying including teasing, mocking and denigrating by the teacher and aide. When the tape was shared with the school district the aide was fired and the teacher was transferred to another school. In another case of teacher bullying in November, 20ll one special needs student took the matter into his own hands or should we say his own camera phone. A fifteen-year-old New Jersey student became frustrated when his parents did not believe that he was being bullied by his teacher. The students’ cell phone captured pictures and audio of the teacher, cursing, and shouting, name calling and almost threatening the young student. When the tape was shown to the school district the teacher was put on paid administrative leave pending investigation.
These are probably just some examples of bullying by teachers that just happened to be caught on tape by a savvy special needs student and the parents of special needs students. How many more concerned trusting parents of students are out there wondering why their children are changing. You may have just found your answer.