Stuart Chaifetz couldn't understand it when his normally mild-mannered son was accused of acting violently at school. So Chaifetz put a wire on him. What he captured was astonishing. Akian was being tormented, not by his fellow peers, but by his teachers.
"Akian had always been a sweet and non-violent child," says Chaifetz about his 10-year-old, "that is why it was so distressing when notes started coming home from his school, stating that he was having violent outbursts, including him hitting his teacher and aide."
The naturally concerned father did what any parent would do and followed up with authorities at Horace Mann Elementary in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. It resulted in a series of meetings, including one IEP meeting last October with Akian's teacher, the school social worker, an occupational therapist and Akian's speech teacher.
As a result of the IEP meeting, a behaviorist was called in to observe Akian in the classroom writes Chaifetz at Hnva.net. But when the father sat down with the behaviorist last February to review the findings, there had been no violent outbursts by Akian at all, nor could the behaviorist create one.
Chaifetz said he felt as if the school was attempting to downplay his concerns, but gut instinct told him something was wrong. "I knew my son," the father said, and "I knew this wasn’t him." What the dad did next was unorthodox, on Feb. 17, he put a wire on his son and sent him to school.
In the video and audio made afterwards and posted on YouTube, Chaifetz says, "That night, my life changed forever." He continued:
"What I had heard on the audio, was so disgusting, vile and just an absolute disrespect and bullying of my son – that happened not by other children, but by his teacher and the aides – the people who were supposed to protect him."
Chaifetz recorded over six hours of audio he said, which:
"Proved that my son wasn’t hitting the teacher because there was something wrong with him – he was lashing out because he was being mocked, mistreated and humiliated. His outbursts were his way of expressing that he was being emotionally hurt at school."
When the father took the disturbing audio to Horace Mann Elementary, only one aide was released. The teacher and another aide were transferred to a different school. Surprising, considering the screams of "shut up" and the highly inappropriate conversations about alcohol, spouses and weight watchers.
What happens on the audio is horrendous. In one instance, comments are made about Chaifetz directly in front of son, Akian. At one point the teacher, identified only as 'Kelly' (now known to be Kelly Altenburg) in the audio, mocks Akian directly. "Who are you talking to, nobody?"
Teacher's aide 'Jodi Sgouris', tells Akian, "No” when he asks to see Dad and then tells him, “shut your mouth." One of the lowest points is when Akian breaks down, and is then called a "Bastard."
Chaifetz said that he had no plans to release the audio publicly, but pleas to the school district to fire those involved, have gone unanswered. Akian's father is seeking a full and public apology from all adults present in the classroom that day. The dad has also established a petition urging the New Jersey Legislature and Congress to act.
"No child should have to suffer humiliation at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect them," Chaifetz said, "when a teacher bullies a child, especially one with Special Needs, they need to be immediately fired. No excuses. No second chances. No more teacher/bullies."
Akian's dad said that his son has since been moved to a new school and is doing well. Fox News reported April 28, that teacher Kelly Altenburg has been placed on paid leave, according to district officials.
Join the discussion at No More Teacher Bullies, Chaifetz' newly established Facebook page.