It's holiday pageant time around the nation and, in Clarksburg, W. Va., a boy was preparing for his big moment. Caleb, 6, was going to say his line, “Gobble, gobble!” in front of family and friends. But that moment never happened. Why?
Caleb's dad shared a video of the event on Facebook, explaining that his son has level one high-functioning autism. The video clearly shows a teacher snatching the mic away from the boy. Immediately, he breaks into tears. It's gone viral with more than 30,000 comments criticizing the teacher and school.
In a response, Harrison County Superintendent Mark Manchin called the event “a mistake,” which was done “without malice.” He added that he would be speaking with the teacher and the principal, emphasizing that teachers and administrators care about all students.
But anyone who watches the video would see why it's hard to view the teacher's actions as a mistake. Caleb is clearly seen waiting for his turn, and the teacher hurriedly grabs the microphone. At no point is the mic returned to him so that he can say his line—despite his audible cries.
The fact that so many have shared their outrage is a silver lining to a heartbreaking event, which will hopefully serve as a cautionary tale for school administrators everywhere about the importance of treating students with autism equally.
Beyond having a conversation with the teacher, as the superintendent stated he would do, any parent in this situation would want an apology from the teacher and administrators, and specific guidelines adopted to ensure children with autism and learning disabilities are included, accommodated and given an equal opportunity to thrive in their schools.
What happened to Caleb also highlights the fact that sometimes, the biggest bully you face is a teacher.
This is not the first time that the treatment of a child with autism has made it into the news. Back in May, a mom posted a video of her defending her autistic son's right to partake in a graduation ceremony with his peers. That video also went viral. Stories of parents struggling to get their kids' appropriate accommodations or school services abound.
Events like these demonstrate that parents of children with autism and learning disabilities bear an unfair burden to fight for equal access to their community and a quality education.
Parents of students with autism and learning disabilities want actions, not words.
In an effort to be proactive, Caleb's dad was started the hashtags #teamCaleb and #makeitrightforCaleb.