New Jersey might have what is considered the toughest anti-bullying law in the nation, but one Cherry Hill father felt it didn't go far enough to protect his autistic young son. So he decided to employ a tactic that melded equal parts secrecy and publicity and that has propelled his case into the spotlight.
Stuart Chaifetz said that his 10-year-old son Akian had always been a "sweet and nonviolent child," and so it was puzzling when his son began arriving home with notes from Horace Mann Elementary School claiming that Akian was having violent outbursts, and in some cases hitting his teacher and an aide. When meetings with school administrators and personnel didn't produce any answers, Chaifetz was at a loss. "I felt I was beginning to lose my son — that these outbursts were changing his very nature," he writes on a website he created. "I knew I had to find out what was happening in his class that was having a dramatic impact on him."
Chaifetz's method of getting to the bottom of things including wiring his young son for sound one February morning. Akian returned with more than six hours of audio, which Chaifetz listened to that night and said "changed his life forever."
Chaifetz detailed his findings on a web page, "No More Teachers/Bullies," and in a YouTube video titled: "Teacher/Bully: How My Son Was Humiliated and Tormented by His Teacher and Aide." In clips of the audio, a classroom aide and teacher whom Chaifetz identifies as "Jodi" and "Kelly" can be heard discussing alcohol use, spousal issues and other personal topics, as well as mocking Akian and responding rudely to his questions. Chaifetz in listening to the audio, the reasoning behind his son's outbursts became clear to him, and he then moved to take the case public.
And, as is so often the case with compelling YouTube videos, Chaifetz's case has quickly gone viral. In a note atop the hundreds of comments he's received since posting the video on April 20, Chaifetz states that he's disabled the auto-post feature due to a large amount of "inappropriate posts," and that he's finding it hard to keep up with the amount of comments pouring in. Chaifetz has also noted a groundswell of support on Facebook.
As a result of Chaifetz's impromptu sting, the aide was fired but the teacher was apparently reassigned to another school. On his web page, Chaifetz expresses the opinion that such teachers should be fired, "no second chances, no excuses." To that end, he has collected more than 20,000 signatures on a petition seeking legislation that would result in the immediate dismissal of teachers who engage in bullying.