Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In Light of Recent Abuse, It's Time We Stand Up for Our Kids

Yesterday we brought you an unfortunate story of a Chicago teachers union leader making inappropriate and disparaging remarks about Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in front of a crowd (and laughing about it). Pretty bad, right?

Well, it's nothing compared to this.

Rarely does a story bring about such a universal reaction—disgust, anger, sadness—as the one we're about to show you. NBC's Today Show first reported on the story of 14-year-old Cheyanne, a special needs student from an Ohio town about 40 miles southwest of Columbus. It's a story of being bullied, something far too many children encounter every day in schools all across the country. But this time, it's different.

The bullies were the teachers.

That's right—it's not students, but instead a teacher and her aide who proceed to call the girl dumb, a liar, and chastise her for "hav[ing] no friends." They make fun of her appearance, her parents, and even give her an "F" on a test without even bothering to grade it.

It took a secret tape recorder carried by Cheyanne to prove that what she was reporting to her father was actually happening, and even after administrators heard them, only the teaching aide was fired (and not immediately, either). And despite the fact that these sad events took place last school year, the teacher in the case was only put on administrative leave two days ago.

Let that sink in for a second.

She was still allowed to be around kids, even though administrators were presented with recorded proof of her verbally abusing a defenseless girl with special needs.

But it gets worse. When the district superintendent was informed of what was happening to Cheyanne, he told her dad that he should "let it go."

Watch NBC's piece on the awful situation below:

Thankfully, Cheyanne's father Brian is working with lawyers to make sure that the teacher doesn't simply have to go to classes or isn't just transferred to another school or district—he's doing his best to make sure she never teach again.

As we said yesterday, it's important to put this situation in perspective, as awful as it is. Most teachers of all stripes, and especially those who work with special needs children, are compassionate, caring, and out to help the students as best they can. Cheyanne's experience isn't common.

But that doesn't make it any less unacceptable. And it's important that we react accordingly to instances like these, both to let abusive people in positions of power know that it's not okay, and to let students know that they should speak out about such abuse, and they should continue to do so until something is done about it.

Recent days and weeks have been filled with news at various educational levels, and of varying degrees, where adults have failed our kids. It takes a community of collective voices to make clear that it will not be tolerated, and the punishments facing these adults need to fit their heinous crimes.

Cheyanne deserves better. All kids do.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

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