Indiana's Akalis Castejon was proud to receive a trophy topped with a gold star at a fifth grade awards luncheon at Bailly Preparatory Academy in Gary last month. His parents, however, were peeved. While other students received awards for "best student," "most improved," and "class clown," the trophy given to Akalis, a nonverbal 11-year-old with autism, read "most annoying male." "Just because they have special needs doesn't mean they don't have feelings," father Rick Castejon tells the Times of Northwest Indiana. He adds teachers often called with concerns about Akalis, who can easily become emotional and sometimes rocks back and forth.
"For a teacher to do that, I believe it was a huge mistake. I also feel it's how she feels about my son," mother Estella Castejon tells WGN. She says she demanded an apology from both the principal and teacher but didn't receive one, per ABC News. In a Monday statement, however, Peter Morikis, the Gary Community School Corporation's emergency manager, extended "deepest apologies to the impacted student, the family, and anyone else who [takes] offense to this unfortunate occurrence." He added disciplinary action was taken, without elaborating. Rick Castejon says officials discussed suspending or firing the teacher, who was absent from a May 27 school event that followed the awards. (Read more autism stories.)