Boy with autism given 'most annoying' award by teacher, school board apologizes
Published Thursday, June 6, 2019 8:08AM EDT Last Updated Thursday, June 6, 2019 11:15PM EDT
An Indiana school district has apologized after an 11-year-old boy with autism was given the “most annoying male” award by his teacher.
Estella Castejon, who says her son Akalis is non-verbal and occasionally rocks back and forth and shakes, believes his special education teacher at Bailly Preparatory Academy should be familiar with his condition and its effects.
“You’d think one would know and understand the conditions of autism and have more patience to deal with children who suffer from autism,” she told local television station WLS-TV from her home in Gary, Ind. on Tuesday.
It’s part of the reason why Akalis’ parents said they were so surprised when his teacher handed him a trophy with a star and a plaque reading “most annoying male” - as well as the school’s name spelled incorrectly - during a recent end-of-the-year luncheon for Grade 5 students.
“I didn’t want to cause a scene with other parents there so I left the award on the table and tried to walk away and his teacher came back and said ‘Akalis forgot his award,’” Rick Castejon recalled.
Rick Castejon said he’s thankful his son didn’t understand what the award meant when he claimed it in front of classmates and their families.
“When they called him up, he was just excited to get a gold star because it was shiny,” he said.
Estella Castejon wasn’t able to attend the ceremony, but the next day she said she went to the school to demand an apology from the teacher. Akalis’ teacher and the principal didn’t apologize to her, but the school district did in a written statement.
“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,” Pete Morikis, the district’s emergency manager, said in the statement.
Morikis also said that disciplinary action was taken against the teacher involved in the incident, but he didn’t say what that punishment was.
Estella Castejon said she hopes the incident will encourage teachers to recognize and understand autism.
“He just wants to be like everyone else. He is like everyone else. The only difference is he cannot express himself like every other person does,” she said.
With files from WLS-TV