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May 08, 2012 2 min read
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| NEWS | ON SPECIAL EDUCATION

Parents Compelled to Secretly Wire Children to Track School Events

Fearing mistreatment of their children with disabilities at school, parents across the country have taken to fitting their kids with hidden devices to capture a day in their lives at school.

Among the teacher-student interactions are the sounds of slapping, taunting voices, talk about the best recipes for martinis, and selected reading from articles with adult content.

In the most recent case, Stuart Chaifetz, a New Jersey father of a 10-year-old with autism, Akian, sent his son to school with a wire, after school staff said the boy was being violent in school, the Daily Dot online news site reported last month.

The recording captured staff calling his son a “bastard” and telling him to shut his mouth.

The story reminded me immediately of a case in Atlanta, where the parents of then-10-year-old Stefan Ferrari, who also has autism, recorded several days of their son’s life at school in 2008.

That recording caught Stefan’s teacher and colleagues talking about sex and sharing recipes for dirty martinis. It included the threat of a “ ‘be-quiet hit’ to a crying child, followed by the repeated slaps of an adult’s hand against Stefan’s bottom,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

While Akian’s father told the Daily Dot that he doesn’t plan to sue, Stefan’s parents did. Eventually, a lower-court judge ruled that Stefan was “intentionally injured in that classroom by trauma ... and he was verbally abused,” and ordered the school district to pay for Stefan’s education in private schools through age 22.

The school district then sued Stefan’s parents, and eventually the parties settled out of court.

In Akian’s case, the Daily Dot reported that the Cherry Hill, N.J., district has transferred an aide and teacher to another school within the district. In Atlanta, Stefan’s teacher was eventually fired.

—Nirvi Shah

| NEWS | TEACHING NOW

Teachers: Kenneth Cole Should Stick to Shoes

Fashion designer Kenneth Cole felt the wrath of many teachers last week after his company posted a billboard with a controversial slogan in reference to the ongoing education reform debate.

The advertisement posted above New York City’s West Side Highway shows a picture of a woman in a red blazer and asks, in a harmless pun, “Shouldn’t everyone be well red?” But the offending statement is written below, in small letters: “Teachers’ Rights vs. Students’ Rights. ...”

According to The Wall Street Journal, the billboard was part of Cole’s venture into “socially conscious advertising.” The accompanying website, WhereDoYouStand.com, offers a forum on a range of issues, including the questions, “Should underperforming teachers be protected?”

The ad suggests that teachers’ unions hinder student learning by protecting teachers’ jobs. Cole is the brother-in-law of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is often at odds with the teachers’ unions.

A GothamSchools story last month sparked a movement on social-media sites for teachers to boycott Kenneth Cole products. The company has since posted a message on its Twitter account: “We misrepresented the issue—one too complex for a billboard—and are taking it down.”

—Liana Heitin

A version of this article appeared in the May 09, 2012 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the week

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