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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Autistic Teen v. School Board

In Northport, New York, a community on Long Island, The Northport Patch reports:
The Northport-East Northport Board of Education cut off a 14-year-old boy from speaking during Monday’s meeting when the teen, who has a form of high-functioning autism, attempted to express what he felt was unfair treatment in his classroom due to his disability.

Christian Ranieri held back tears as he left the room after being shut down just a few sentences into his speech, in which he was asking the board to hear him out after he felt he was unfairly suspended for two days from school.

The school board president cited privacy laws in his reasoning for halting Ranieri's speech. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of student education records.
Ranieri continued his speech, pointing out that he was trying to stand up for himself, the way others, such as Rosa Parks did. However, after he asked the board for a different person to be put in charge of implementing his IEP, Waldenburg apologized for having to stop him from speaking and Ranieri was cut off again.

“This entire discussion which involves disciplinary action is totally improper for a public session,” Waldenburg said.

“Let him be heard!” residents shouted from their seats.

Waldenburg said that the “proper audience” for the discussion would be the superintendent. However, the teen’s mother, Carina, said that when she attempted to speak with the superintendent at the school building, she was told that she would have to make an appointment and was asked to leave. Carina sent a letter asking for an appeal of the suspension, but had not received a response from the superintendent, she said.

After the incident in school, Renieri and his family created a Facebook page to document the teen’s journey of self-advocacy. So far, the page has garnered 220 fans and continues to grow. Avideo of Renieri's speech at the board meeting was also uploaded to YouTube where it has more than 1,500 views as of Tuesday evening.
It's gone viral. As of early Saturday morning, the video had more than 55,000 views: