A New Jersey school district has fired at least two educators for verbally abusing autistic children after a father sent his 10-year-old autistic son to school wearing a hidden microphone upon suspecting he was being mistreated by staff.
The audio recordings, made public in a 17-minute video later posted on YouTube, capture educators speaking in harsh tones to the autistic children, including one in which a woman tells the young boy what sounds like "You are a bastard."
"That night my life changed forever," father Stuart Chaifetz said of the first time he heard the recording. "What I heard on that audio was so disgusting, so vile."
Chaifetz said in the video he had become perplexed by reports his son, Akian, was being accused of hitting teachers and aides and knocking over chairs at Horace Mann Elementary School in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.ABC reports:
In cases around the country, suspicious parents have been taking advantage of convenient, inexpensive technology to tell them what children, because of their disabilities, are not able to express on their own. It's a practice that can help expose abuses, but it comes with some dangers.
Laws on audio recordings vary by state, but in most of the U.S., including New Jersey, recordings can generally be made legally if one party gives consent. Over the past decade, courts in New York and Wisconsin have ruled that recordings made secretly on school buses were legal, finding that there is a diminished expectation of privacy for drivers on the bus.
The recordings have led to firings in several states, criminal convictions of bus employees in Wisconsin and New York, and legal settlements worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in Ohio and Missouri.
"In classrooms where children are nonverbal, unable to communicate, defenseless," he said, "we should start to have a discussion of whether cameras in the classroom are necessary."