GARY, Ind. — Two parents in northwest Indiana were outraged tonight – after their son, who has autism, was singled out by his fifth grade teacher and humiliated at an awards luncheon after receiving the “most annoying male” award.
Akalis Castejon is non-verbal, but the 11-year-old communicates with the joy of any child during summer break.
Akalis just finished the fifth grade at Bailly Preparatory Academy in Gary. The school ended with a special awards luncheon for the students.
Rick Castejon, Akalis’ father said they gave out awards for things like “best student,” “funniest,” “class clown,” and other categories.
However, he said when it came time for his son to receive an award, the mood quickly became cringe-worthy.
“So when they called him up, they’re calling the names, and they were like, ‘most annoying male award,’” he said. I wasn’t expecting that, not for an autistic kid, at all.”
Akalis didn’t understand that the award was pointing out and making fun of his behavior, and was so proud he wanted to show his mother the trophy.
His mother, Estella Castejon, said when she saw the award, she couldn’t believe it. She called the school immediately.
“For a teacher to do that, I believe it was a huge mistake. I also feel it’s how she feels about my son,” she said.
The school district issued this written statement saying that whether the teacher was intending to be harmful, or attempting to be humorous, it was inappropriate.
Akalis’ father said the situation provides a lesson that people with different abilities deserve the same respect.
“Treat him like you’d treat any other kid,” he said. “They need more affection and stuff like that. Just treat him right, that’s all. They don’t want to be treated like an outsider or left behind.”
The family says it plans to move to Valparaiso and into a new school district for the start of the next school year.