Education experts around the country are working hard to combat bullying — but what happens when the school bully is a teacher?
Kids carrying recording devices are catching this shocking abuse.
In Cherry Hill, NJ, one father used YouTube to demand a public apology from the teacher and her aide who bullied his 10-year-old autistic son. The video that Stuart Chaifetz uploaded got more than 4.5 million hits.
"What kind of sick, twisted person does that to a 10-year-old-boy," says Chaifetz. "I could not let the abuse my son suffered be swept under the rug."
Chaifetz began to suspect there was trouble when Akien – a friendly, loving child – started acting out at school. Chaifetz tried to find out what was upsetting his son, but Akien is speech impaired and couldn't tell his dad.
"I just knew that I would never find out unless I was able to know, to hear what was going on in that room," says Chaifetz.
Chaifetz decided to wire his son with a small audio recorder.
TEACHER ON TAPE: "Oh, Akien, you are a bastard. Shut your mouth! Knock it off! You're going to get nothing until your mouth is shut."
"To know that your child has been treated so horrifically, by people that you trust. It's an absolute betrayal," says Chaifetz.
Elaine Sigal has been a teacher for more than 40 years. She now gives parents guidance on how to deal with a bullying teacher through STIZZil – an education web site. Sigal says the first step is to document the verbal abuse.
"I would write down comments verbatim," says Sigal. "I would verify comments with students in the classroom, with other teachers. I would also keep a documented record of days, times, whenever something has occurred."
Once you have evidence to present, Sigal suggests scheduling a parent-teacher conference.
"Put them on the spot and ask them to please explain to you why these things occurred," says Sigal.
If you're not satisfied with how the teacher responds, Sigal says go to the principal.
"And if the principal gives you no satisfaction, then you go from there to the superintendent, again, following the food chain all the way up to the school board," says Sigal. "And if the school board offers you no help, I would go to the press."
And that's why Stuart Chaifetz went public with his recording. Although the teacher was not fired, she was transferred to another school district.
If you suspect your child is being bullied at school by a teacher, remember what Elaine Sigal suggests: Document the abuse!
Present the evidence to the teacher, and follow up with the principal and school board if necessary. And if that's not enough, alert the media. Because a teacher who torments a student has no place in the classroom.
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