A Pennsylvania mother says her son with autism has been “bullied by teachers,” who awarded him with a “Most Likely to Get Lost in a Crowd” certificate at the end of the school year.
“I felt very bad because I don’t think this should be given, not only to my son, not to any kid, because every kid struggles in school,” Desiree Perez told local news station WJAR.
Mom of an autistic middle school student in New Bedford is upset after her son got this superlative at the end of the year. “Most Likely to Get Lost in a Crowd” School officials are now investigating. @NBC10 @ 5:00 pic.twitter.com/3U3E9BjDoj— Brian Crandall (@nbc10_brian) June 17, 2019
Perez’s son, Kelvin, just finished the sixth grade at Normandin Middle School in New Bedford. And on his last day of school, she says she found a blue certificate sent home with her son’s end-of-the-year paperwork.
“I was looking at his report card, which was good, he got all As, Bs, and Cs," Perez told local radio station WBSM. "But when I look at the end of the paperwork, I find a [certificate] that says, 'Most Likely to Get Lost in a Crowd.' That's his award for the whole year. Everything he did all year, and that's what he got."
While Perez was furious at the award, she was thankful that Kelvin didn’t understand the message that it conveyed.
"When he read it, the first thing he said was, 'But Mom, I never get lost,'" she said. "That's how innocent these kids are. He doesn't get what they were saying about him."
Still, Perez believes the award is a “type of bullying by the teachers.” She was especially surprised when she read the “disrespectful” superlative signed with “love” from a group of teachers, including Kelvin’s.
“I found it disrespectful because she knows more than anybody that I struggle a lot with my son,” said Perez. "He didn't even talk until he was 7 years old. He's been through a lot, and people don't get that. They don't get what he's gone through and what I've gone through."
According to reports from WBSM, Perez has been fighting with Individual Education Plan workers to make accommodations for his autism, to no avail. On top of that, she says Kelvin has been the victim of bullying by fellow students, none of whom, according to Perez, were ever disciplined for their actions.
After Perez expressed her outrage, she met with the school principal, who apologized for the incident — though he said no further action could be taken, since teachers had already left for vacation.
However, Perez said she wants more than just an apology— she wants the teachers to learn their lesson, adding, “They should only give positive awards. These kids struggle every day with what they have to go through."
New Bedford superintendent Thomas Anderson also issued an apology to Perez upon hearing of the situation, and is making sure to work with school administrators and staff to prevent incidents like this happening in the future.
“We expressed our sincere apologies to our student and his family,” Anderson tells Yahoo Lifestyle in a statement. “This situation further highlights the need for us to continue our work around communication and remain in a cycle of continuous learning and improvement. I am confident that we will continue to grow and evolve into our best selves to support all of our students.”
According to a New Bedford Public School spokesperson, the district immediately launched an inquiry upon hearing of Perez’s complaint. Meanwhile, all of the district administrators are attending a two-day workshop on equity “to strengthen our understanding of all students, their families and the overall community.”
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