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Educators fired after mocking autistic student in audio recording

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UPDATE: Hope Academy says a second teacher has now been fired following the Investigative Unit's report. See the latest info here: http://www.wbrz.com/news/educators-fired-after-mocking-autistic-student-in-audio-recording/

BATON ROUGE- A Hope Academy school employee was fired and another will be terminated when school lets out for the summer after an audio recording captured them saying inappropriate things about a special needs student.

The child's mother, Milissa Davis, captured the discussion after formulating a plan to place a recording device in her son's book sack after he became aggressive and wet the bed. The child is 12 years old and severely autistic.

Davis, who spoke with WBRZ and shared the recording Tuesday, said she was alarmed at what she discovered. 

"I just wanted to cry, scream and do everything I could because it was so bad," Davis said. "To think that I had sent my son there every day, and what had happened before, that I didn't know about."

At least two adults in a classroom identified as a teacher and a teacher's aide are heard saying horrible things to the student and talking about him.

Part of the disturbing audio clips are captioned below:

     ADULT: "You're just writing the word. What is hard about it?"

     STUDENT: grunting noise.

     ADULT: mocks noise


     ADULT: "Camden, why don't you have anything written down? That's why you can't sit with everyone. Tell your momma that." 



     ADULT: "Let's see what they do with him in f****** public school. He was going to go to Live Oak Middle. Uh ah, he wouldn't make it for a minute."



Hope Academy advertises that it specializes in teaching students with learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, Asperger syndrome, ADHD, down syndrome, cognitive disabilities, and dyslexia.

Davis is concerned with what she uncovered and wants to alert other parents about warning signs. She hired an attorney because of the situation. 

"One of the worst possible things you can do is take advantage of the infirm, or a disadvantaged child," Attorney Charlotte McGehee said. "They need the extra protection, and he didn't get it. When I heard the treatment of this child through the recording his mother made, I was horrified."

McGehee said she intends to file complaints with the Department of Education and all legal remedies will be explored.

"If they're special needs, look at the situation as to why your child is acting that way, because no child deserves to go through what my child did," Davis said.

Hope Academy Principal, Linda Stone, released the following statement:

"For the last 11 years, Hope Academy has been dedicated to the education of students with special needs. We provide a vital resource to this community. And we do it at cost and with teachers and administrators who are dedicated to special needs children.

On March 23, 2018, a recording posted to social media was brought to our attention. Apparently, a parent sent a student to school with a recording device in his/her backpack. The recording appears to be a compilation of audio clips, many of which involve private conversations between two adults with no other persons/children present. The recording contains regretful conversations between these adults.

The parent never brought the recording to the attention of Hope Academy before posting it to social media.  The parent has also refused to meet with Hope Academy to discuss the actions we have taken to address the issue. The persons involved in the communications are either no longer with the school or will no longer be with the school after this semester.

Over these many years, Hope Academy has built a strong reputation for competently serving the educational needs of the special needs community. These recordings are not an indication of who we are. We ask that the community not let the actions of two persons reflect on the reputation of and the mission of our school-a mission we have tried so hard to build. We again extend an invitation to meet with the parent involved to discuss this incident further."

See more stories from the Investigative Unit below:

'Something happened' to injured infant, mother upset with investigation

Police officer under investigation over body camera video and how she offered to write report

Parent furious after child ingests prescription drug on school bus

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