Parents use spy tech to expose abuse of special needs kids
Suspicious parents of special needs kids have recently taken advantage of advances in spy tech to plant wires on their children at school. The recordings have been used to expose abuse perpetrated by school officials; but also may raise privacy issues.
Cherry Hill, N.J
Teachers hurled insults like "bastard," ''tard," ''damn dumb" and "a hippo in a ballerina suit." A bus driver threatened to slap one child, while a bus monitor told another, "Shut up, you little dog."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
In cases around the country, suspicious parents have been taking advantage of convenient, inexpensive technology to tell them what children, because of their disabilities, are not able to express on their own. It's a practice that can help expose abuses, but it comes with some dangers.
This week, a father in Cherry Hill, N.J., posted on YouTube clips of secretly recorded audio that caught one adult calling his autistic 10-year-old son "a bastard." In less than three days, video got 1.2 million views, raising the prominence of the small movement. There have been at least nine similar cases across the U.S. since 2003.
"If a parent has any reason at all to suggest a child is being abused or mistreated, I strongly recommend that they do the same thing," said Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association.
But George Giuliani, executive director of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and director of special education at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., says that while the documented mistreatment of children has been disturbing, secret recordings are a bad idea. They could, he said, violate the privacy rights of other children.
"We have to be careful that we're not sending our children in wired without knowing the legal issues," Giuliani said.
Stuart Chaifetz, the Cherry Hill father, said he began getting reports earlier in the school year that his 10-year-old son, Akian, was being violent.
Hitting teachers and throwing chairs were out of character for the boy, who is in a class with four other autistic children and speaks but has serious difficulty expressing himself. Chaifetz said he talked to school officials and had his son meet with a behaviorist. There was no explanation for the way Akian was acting.