Caught on audio recording repeatedly mocking an autistic child, a Hope Academy school employee has been fired and another educator will be terminated at the end of the semester. Instead of expressing a modicum of compassion for the special needs student, his teacher and a teacher’s aide incessantly derided the boy and his condition with open disdain.
After recently noticing drastic changes in her 12-year-old autistic son’s behavior, including aggressiveness and bed-wetting, Milissa Davis secretly placed an audio recorder in his backpack to make sure he was not being bullied at school. According to the school’s website, Hope Academy in Baton Rouge specializes in serving K-12 students with autism, Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, Down syndrome, cognitive disabilities, and dyslexia.
During the audio recordings, a teacher and teacher’s aide can be heard belittling Milissa Davis’ son, Camden. Obtained by WBRZ, the first recording captures an adult saying, “You’re just writing the word. What is hard about it?”
Camden mutters inaudibly.
The teacher immediately mocks the child’s response.
In the second recording, an adult asks, “Camden, why don’t you have anything written down? That’s why you can’t sit with everyone. Tell your momma that.”
According to the third recording, an adult says, “Let’s see what they do with him in fucking public school. And he was going to go to Live Oak Middle. Uh uh, he wouldn’t make it for a minute.”
After listening to the recordings, Milissa Davis told WBRZ, “I just wanted to cry, scream and do everything I could because it was so bad. To think that I had sent my son there every day, and what had happened before, that I didn’t know about.”
“One of the worst possible things you can do is take advantage of the infirm, or a disadvantaged child,” said Davis’ attorney, Charlotte McGehee. “They need the extra protection, and he didn’t get it. When I heard the treatment of this child through the recording his mother made, I was horrified.”
Davis is considering filing a lawsuit, while McGehee intends to file complaints with the Department of Education.
On Tuesday, Hope Academy Principal Linda Stone released the following statement:
“For the last 11 years, Hope Academy has been dedicated to the education of students with special needs. We provide a vital resource to this community. And we do it at cost and with teachers and administrators who are dedicated to special needs children.
“On March 23, 2018, a recording posted to social media was brought to our attention. Apparently, a parent sent a student to school with a recording device in his/her backpack. The recording appears to be a compilation of audio clips, many of which involve private conversations between two adults with no other persons/children present. The recording contains regretful conversations between these adults.
“The parent never brought the recording to the attention of Hope Academy before posting it to social media. The parent has also refused to meet with Hope Academy to discuss the actions we have taken to address the issue. The persons involved in the communications are either no longer with the school or will no longer be with the school after this semester.
“Over these many years, Hope Academy has built a strong reputation for competently serving the educational needs of the special needs community. These recordings are not an indication of who we are. We ask that the community not let the actions of two persons reflect on the reputation of and the mission of our school-a mission we have tried so hard to build. We again extend an invitation to meet with the parent involved to discuss this incident further.”