When his 10-year-old son, Akian, started getting into trouble at school, Stuart Chaifetz was stunned. The notes from Horace Mann Elementary School in Cherry Hill, N.J., said that Akian, who has autism, was having violent outbursts and hitting his teacher and his aide -- behavior that the boy had never exhibited before.
"I could not understand why this was happening," Chaifetz, a 44-year-old animal rights activist in New Jersey, wrote on his website. "I had never witnessed Akian hit anyone, nor could I dream of him lashing out as had been described to me."
In October 2011, he met with Akian's teachers and school therapists. A behaviorist was called in, but during several classroom visits he didn't see Akian become violent. "He tried to create a scenario that would push Akian so far that he would lash out," Chaifetz explained. "And Akian did not."
"If Akian was pushed and didn't do anything, what was setting him off?" his dad wondered. After six months of meetings yielded no answers, he decided that he needed to know what was happening in his son's class. Like Akian, all of the other kids in his class also have autism, and complications from the disorder prevent them from being able to communicate to their parents about what goes on in the classroom.
"The morning of February 17, I put a wire on my son, and I sent him to school," Chaifetz says in a video he created to showcase the audio clips. "What I heard on that audio was so disgusting, vile, and just an absolute disrespect and bullying of my son, that happened not by other children, but by his teacher, and the aides -- the people who were supposed to protect him. They were literally making my son's life a living hell."