Teachers at a New Jersey elementary school were caught verbally abusing autistic students after the father of one of the students sent his son to school with a recorder in his pocket.
Stuart Chaifetz, 44, decided to use the secret tactic after the school informed him that his 10-year-old son Akian was behaving violently in class, according to ABC News. He said he knew immediately that something wasn't right.
"The thing that said to me that something horrifyingly wrong was going on was that he was hitting the teacher and the aide," Chaifetz told ABC News. "I have never seen him hit anyone. He's just not a violent kid."
Before resorting to the tape recorder, Chaifetz hired specialists to determine why Akian was acting out in class. Akian never exhibited any violent behavior, however, even after being pushed to his limits in a controlled scenario. The specialists could not figure out what was wrong.
"I realized that there was something terrible going on in that classroom and I needed to know what it was," Chaifetz said.
So he sent Akian to school with the hidden recorder, and the result was shocking.
Akian's teacher and her aide could be heard shouting at him, making fun of him, calling him names, and having inappropriate conversations in front of the children.
"When I listened to what they had done to him, I just shattered inside," Chaifetz said.
As class begins, the teacher and her aide openly joke about alcohol abuse and their sex lives. Later, they verbally abuse Akian, scolding him for talking to himself and calling him a "bastard."
When Akian starts to cry, one of the women responds cruelly.
"Go ahead and scream because guess what? You're going to get nothing until your mouth is shut."
Chaifetz presented the disturbing audio recording to school officials, who took the matter very seriously.
"They were shocked and horrified as I was and I appreciate the fact that they took immediate action and fired one of the aides in the class," he said. "The problem is that they didn't fire the teacher because of tenure and she was moved to another school."
That the teacher was not also fired is unacceptable, Chaifetz says.
"She betrayed my son and caused him great pain," he told the Huffington Post. "If some union rule or HR regulation has allowed her to keep her job, then the law needs to be changed so that the next time a teacher bullies a child, especially one with special needs, they will be immediately fired."
The Cherry Hill school district addressed the matter in a statement posted to its website.
"We strongly believe that the district acted swiftly, appropriately and judiciously with regard to the staff in the classroom," the statement read in part, according to ABC News. "What's more, we are confident that these decisions were informed first and foremost by compassion for the students."
To bring awareness to the issue, Chaifetz uploaded a video to YouTube in which he plays select clips from the recording. The video has more than 5 million views.