The father of an 11-year-old autistic boy was shocked at a luncheon honoring his son’s fifth grade class when his son was given an award dubbing him the “most annoying male.”

Rick Castejon told the NWI Times that his son is nonverbal, occasionally rocks back and forth and can become easily emotional. But at a May 23 school awards luncheon at the Merrillville Golden Corral for Bailly Preparatory Academy students, the boy’s special education teacher gave him a trophy inscribed, “BAILEY PREPARATORY ACADEMY 2018-2019 MOST ANNOYING MALE.” To make matters worse, the teacher proceeded to do so in front of fellow students, parents, and the principal.

Castejon said he tried to leave the trophy on a table, but the teacher reminded him to take it, acting as thought the incident was just a joke. He added, “We were blindsided. We just weren’t expecting it. As a principal or teacher, you should never let this happen to any student.”

As WDEL reported, the boy didn’t understand that the trophy was a joke, and was proud that he received it, showing it to his mom when he got home.

Castejon said the school had communicated with him during the school year about his son, recalling, “They called me all the time if he didn’t want to work, would cry or would have a breakdown. A special needs education teacher should know how to handle these things.” He said that four days after the incident, at a fifth-grade graduation celebration, the teacher was not present.

As the Mayo Clinic states, “A child or adult with autism spectrum disorder may have problems with social interaction and communication skills, including any of these signs: Fails to respond to his or her name or appears not to hear you at time … Doesn’t speak or has delayed speech, or loses previous ability to say words or sentences … A child or adult with autism spectrum disorder may have limited, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities, including any of these signs: Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand flapping.”

On Monday, Gary Community School Corp. emergency manager Peter Morikis confirmed the incident, telling the NWI Times, “The Gary Community School Corporation does not condone this type of behavior and will continue to put the safety and well-being of our students first. We extend our deepest apologies to the impacted student, the family and anyone else who take offense to this unfortunate occurrence.”

Morikis also stated, “An apology was extended on behalf of the district to the family, and disciplinary action was taken against personnel involved. We acknowledge the potential impact that an experience like this could have on a child’s mental well-being, self-esteem and overall level of comfortability in a learning environment going forward.”

Morikis added that the emergency manager was considering suspending the teacher and might fire the teacher.

The NWI Times noted, “Castejon said prior to the award incident, his family already had plans to move to Valparaiso and does not intend to send his son to Gary schools next year.”

Castejon concluded, “We just don’t want any other kids to go through this. Just because they have special needs doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.”

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