The family of a boy with autism confronted the Gary, Indiana, school board Tuesday evening after he was given an award for the “most annoying male” by his special education teacher.
The story of the 11-year-old is one school officials clearly did not want NBC 5 viewers to see Tuesday night as they attempted to kick our station's camera out of the board meeting. But because Indiana law allows media in public meetings, NBC 5 kept recording.
“It says a lot,” Rick Castejon, the victim's father said. “Feels like there’s a lot of things they don’t want (to) let out.”
“The goal for us is to ensure that everyone involved in this cruel joke is held accountable,” said Angie Castejon, a student’s grandmother.
The school board apologized to the family for the award but says they don’t have the power to discipline anyone.
“It saddens me that the principal still has not apologized nor has the teacher apologized,” expressed Mr. Robert Biggs of Gary School Board.
“When I emailed the principal on the 23 of May, I received her response the next day and it was very dismissive,” the victim's grandma recalled.
The Indiana school principal has been placed on administrative leave and three teachers' jobs are in jeopardy, according to a press release issued by the Gary School District Friday.
According to the release, the principal of Bailly Preparatory Academy was placed on leave and three teachers were served with "preliminary determination notice of contract cancellation" as a result of the award, which stunned the community and the boy's parents.
Estella and Rick Castejon, of Gary, said their son Akalis received the award along with one other student during a fifth-grade event on May 23.
In a statement Friday night, the Gary Community School Corporation said that its internal investigation, led by outside legal counsel, resulted in the teachers potentially having their contracts terminated, and the principal of the school was also placed on leave pending an additional investigation.
"Our main concern is the well-being of the children who have been entrusted to us," District Emergency Manager Dr. Pete Morikis said in a statement. "Their safety, physically and emotionally, is our top priority."
"When I saw it, I had to take a double take at it," Estella Castejon said in an earlier interview with NBC 5. "I wasn’t sure if my eyes were reading it correctly."
“Bailey Preparatory Academy 2018-2019 Most Annoying Male,” the award read.
Thankfully, the parents said they don’t believe their son understood what he won the award for, despite having been bullied before.
“He wanted it just because it was a nice, shiny star,” Rick Castejon said. “That was it.”
The parents said they were shocked the staff at Bailly Preparatory Academy allowed such an award to be given to their child, who is nonverbal and can become emotional at times.
“My son is a good boy. He’s not annoying, not with me,” Estella Castejon said.
The family said the school district apologized to them.
“[Kids with autism] just want to be liked, they just want to have fun, be treated like normal people, that’s all,” Rick Castejon said.