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Video shows teacher grab mic from boy with autism during school play

Posted at 11:37 PM, Nov 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-20 23:40:06-05

HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va. -- A video showing a teacher grabbing a microphone from a boy with autism during a school play is causing outrage online.

The video was captured by the boy's mother at Nutter Fort Primary School's first grade Thanksgiving play Tuesday.

The boy's father, Kent Squires, said he was heartbroken to see his six-year-old son Caleb, who he said has high functioning autism, in tears moments after the teacher took the microphone.

"For them to do what they did is very appalling to me," Squires said. "He never, ever goes without laughing or saying 'I love you mommy and daddy."

Squires said his son, who was dressed as a turkey, was about to deliver his favorite lines, "Gobble, Gobble."

Harrison County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin said what happened in the video was indefensible.

"We saw it, I saw it, the 17-second snippet...There's no way to defend it," he said.

Manchin said the teacher feels horrible about the incident.

However, he said the school never received a permission slip from Caleb's parents and that the play had actually ended when the incident happened.

Squires disputed that.

"And it's a play, they're first and second graders, and I do not see the harm in letting that child say what he felt was very important," Squires said.

Robyn Viglianco, an employee at The Arc of Harrison County, which works with people with developmental disabilities, pledged her support in a comment on the video.

"The child's parents were there, if she's acting that way in front of them, what is she doing behind closed doors?" Viglianco said.

Squires said this is not the first time he's had falling out with the school. In fact, he recalled faculty coming to him with complaints about his son every day after kindergarten.

"And she's like, 'Well, I just need to tell you your kid, Caleb, was acting out today, right in the middle of all the parents."

He's since resolved that with Manchin, but the school is now under new scrutiny ith the video drawing national attention and resonating with thousands.

"Me being disabled, I thank God it never happened to me," Zeke Lane said. "I said, 'I can only imagine if it did, what kind of heartbreak I would be going through' and stuff like that."

As for the teacher in question, Manchin said she will not be disciplined, but did released a statement Sunday:

We deeply regret the recent incident involving a teacher and student during a Thanksgiving program at one of our schools. We understand and sympathize with all who have expressed and voiced outrage, disappointment, and concerns. Your message has been heard. We have the same concerns and are working to resolve these issues. We sincerely apologize to the student, family, and all who have been impacted by this incident.

As educators who live, work within, and represent communities, it is important that we always place the needs of our students first. The seventeen-second video clip is absolutely disappointing. It also does not represent the full story. The clip does not reflect the selfless service and love this teacher--and many teachers just like her--demonstrate daily. Further, this incident does not reflect the core values of our school system. In response, we will be dedicating additional resources toward professional development in understanding and support for students with special needs.

In a larger sense, it is also important during this time of thanksgiving, to reflect on the dedication of all professional teachers and staff members, who tirelessly and compassionately provide quality education to all students.

To that end, we say, “Thank you and God bless you.” Let us all work together, in a positive and constructive manner, to make a positive difference.