Gary school district moves to fire teachers who gave student with autism 'most annoying' award

GARY, Ind. (WLS) -- Gary's school district is taking a step toward firing three of its teachers over an award given to a student with autism that sparked widespread outrage.

While other kids were given positive awards such as "most improved" or "funniest," Rick and Estella Castejon were blindsided when their 11-year-old son who has autism was given "most annoying" at Bailly Preparatory Academy.

Akalis Castejon, 11, is non-verbal autistic. Occasionally he rocks back and forth, or shakes, traits the family feels special education teachers at Gary's Bailly Preparatory Academy should be familiar with.

"You'd think one would know and understand the conditions of autism and have more patience to deal with children who suffer from autism," Estella said.

"I didn't want to cause a scene with other parents there, so I left the award on the table and tried walking away, but the teacher came back and said Akalis forgot his award," Rick said.

Estella, who did not attend the awards lunch, went to the school the next day demanding an apology. She never got one from the teacher or the principal, however, the school district did apologize.

After an internal investigation, the three teachers allegedly involved with the award were each served with a "preliminary determination notice of contract cancellation," school officials said.

The school's principal has also been placed on administrative leave, pending further investigation.

"Our main concern is the well-being of the children who have been entrusted to us," said Dr. Pete Morikis, Emergency Manager for the District. "Their safety, physically and emotionally, is our top priority."
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