Writing this post is really difficult, because it plays to one of my worst fears as a parent of a child with special needs. The timing is ironic, as I literally just sat with a friend in a coffee shop over the weekend and shared this fear….that my daughter, Taylor, will be treated poorly or subjected to verbal or physical abuse, and that I will not know about it. Every parent fears this, but it is most concerning to me because my daughter is nonverbal. She would have no way of telling me what happened.
I sometimes see stories in the news about children with special needs being subjected to physical and verbal abuse at school. Unfortunately, it happens more often than you would think. There are many wonderful, loving, and kind teachers, however, the special education classroom is also attractive to those who thrive on being in a position of power and it is a place where it is easy to abuse that power.
I wanted to share about an audio recording made inside of a West Virginia classroom. The story broke a few days ago and was shared by ABC7 WJLA: Disturbing audio recording made inside an elementary school classroom in West Virginia. A concerned mother sent her nonverbal child to school with a recording device in her hair after the child became distressed and did not want to return to school. The video is below and I want to warn you that the recordings are disturbing:
Listening to these recordings had me in tears one minute and outraged the next. This could be our family. I remember sending Taylor to school for the first time. I had so many fears, so many hesitations, and so many questions. Would her teachers and classmates include her in the day-to-day activities? Would she get the attention she needed and deserved? Would her needs be met? And would people at the school be kind to her?
If something were to happen to her, the reality is that I may not know about it. The video above makes me absolutely sick. Take a look at some of the comments made toward these students:
Instructor #1: “This one I could punch her right in her face.”
Instructor #2: “You go to go pee-pee? Pee-pee? Or do you not have to go pee-pee and you just want to **** *** in a chair?”
Instructor #2: I’m going to pull your hair until you start crying.”
Instructor #3: “Don’t throw it. Don’t throw. You animal you.”
Instructor #2: “Yep. You wench.”
Instructor #2: “You’re like a pygmy. You’re like a pygmy thing.”
And there’s more:
Instructor #1: “Growl at me. I dare you and you won’t get one. Go ahead. There is nothing says I have to give you a snack. Nothing.”
Instructor #2: “Looks like you get nothing Own. Haha. Sorry buddy.”
All three teachers are currently on paid administrative leave. What is even more disgusting is that the Berkeley County Prosecutor’s Office found no criminal wrongdoing….I have even seen some comments and stories written on social media that indicate charges should be brought up against the parents for recording the teachers without their consent. WHAT?!
How is this NOT abuse? Why are we not bring charges of child abuse against these teachers? How about neglect? “There is nothing that says I need to give you a snack?” and “do you just want to **** *** in a chair? How is this NOT neglect? How is this NOT communicating threats? These teachers threaten physical violence multiple times. The Prosecutor’s Office did write a letter to the parents stating “I am not in any way condoning the verbal treatment of your children by the individuals in the classroom.”
Most people agree with the Prosecutor’s Office that this treatment is unacceptable and lacking in human decency, kindness, and compassion. But when are we going to begin to focus on the rights of victims with the same intensity as we protect the rights of those who violate the rules and laws that govern us?
This is an example of how our educational and judicial systems have failed to protect our most vulnerable children. One mom from this classroom, Amber Pack, is fighting for change. She started a change.org petition asking for a law to be passed to bring cameras inside classrooms in West Virginia. To sign the petition, click HERE.
We have to use our voices to stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves.