When single father Stuart Chaifetz was told his 10-year-old autistic son was being violent in school, he knew something was wrong.
Akian had always been a gentle, loving boy, and the school’s description of him was so out of character that he sent his son to school with a hidden tape recorder to find out what was really going on.
That evening, when he listened to the six-and-a-half hours of audio, his life changed forever.
Not only were Akian’s teachers at Horace Mann Elementary in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, talking about being drunk at school and sex, and gossiping about pupils and their parents, they were also taunting, shouting and swearing at his son.
‘What I heard on that audio was so disgusting, vile, and just an absolute disrespect, and bullying, of my son that happened not by other children, but by his teacher, and the aides, the people that were supposed to protecting him. They were literally making my son’s life a living hell,’ Chaifetz said.
He incorporated the troubling recording into a 17-minute YouTube clip, in which he demands a public apology from the teachers who treated his son as if he was ‘subhuman’.
Chaifetz told how Akian, who suffers from learning difficulties, sometimes talks softly to himself. But when he is heard doing this at school, the disturbing audio documents his teacher mocking him and yelling: ‘Shut your mouth.’
In distress, the schoolboy begins to cry, to which his teacher responds: ‘Go ahead and scream because guess what? You are going to get nothing until your mouth is shut.’
The shocking recording details Akian’s teachers talking to him aggressively, culminating in one’s outburst of: ‘Oh Akian, you are a bastard.’
But what is perhaps the most disturbing for the father-of-one, is when Akian’s teachers deliberately upset him, causing the boy to breakdown.
Akian’s parents are separated and he sees his mother every other weekend. But this sometimes proves distressing for the special needs boy, so a frequent question he asks is, ‘May I see Daddy after Mommy?’
But when the boy seeks reassurance from his teachers and asks the same question, they respond, laughing: ‘No, you can’t see.’
In panic, Akian reacts by throwing chairs around the classroom, his meltdown lasting for half an hour.
‘What kind of sick, twisted person does that to a 10-year-old boy?’ Chaifetz asks. ‘My son did not go to school, he went to prison and learnt to fight to survive.’
He took the audio to the Cherry Hill School District, where officials fired one of the teachers involved – but the other teacher featured in the recording is still at the school.
‘This is a personnel matter that the school district took seriously and handled appropriately and there will be no further comment,’ Susan Bastnagel, spokesperson for the Cherry Hill School District, told NBC10.
But Chaifetz does not agree. ‘What you did was so disgusting that you should be walking around with your head in shame… And you’re still teaching children today,’ he said.
‘I want an apology not for me, but so one day, I can play this video back for my son and say, “Akian, you did not deserve anything that happened to you. These people are at fault”… This is to reclaim my son’s dignity.’
The outraged father’s YouTube video, uploaded last Friday, has been viewed close to 200,000 times and has attracted almost 14,000 likes and 1,000 comments.
Internet users reacted with horror and the upsetting clip, with one user, named frickchicka786, posting: ‘It wasn’t until she called your son a bastard that I realized how really, truly vicious this woman is. There is a fine line between discipline and humiliation and she skirted it for the first few clips and then blatantly crossed with the name calling. I could hear the resentment in her voice.
‘How could she make fun of these kids–special needs children are the sweetest! I’m sorry your son hurt so much. I hope this reaches the world and you get the change that your son deserves.’
Another, posting under the name shmaderable, added: ‘This seriously sickens me. It’s hard to believe that people would treat a child like that, much less a child with autism.
‘You are an absolutely WONDERFUL father! I hope those evil women get what they deserve and I hope for the best for you and your son from here on out.’