Yesterday, I told you about a teacher who apparently thought he had the right to bully a 15-year old special needs student. Well, as if that story wasn’t bad enough, get ready for the dastardly duo: Christie Wilt and Kelly Chaffins, a special education teacher and her aide.
This story is about Cheyanne, a 14-year old special needs girl who attends Miami Trace Middle School in Washington Courthouse, Ohio, who used to love school. Her father, Brian, told TODAY that up until fifth grade, they never had a problem getting their daughter to go to school. But in fifth grade, she was in a classroom with an aide named Kelly Chaffins. On one occasion, Brian said that Chaffins jerked Cheyanne up by her shirt and pulled her from the line. When they tried to talk to the school about what had happened, they were told that Ms Kelly would not do what their daughter claimed she had done, and the situation was dropped by the principal.
Brian told Ann Curry on TODAY that sixth grade was better, seventh grade was worse, but eighth grade was terrible. It was at this time that Cheyanne began to tell her parents that she was being bullied. She claimed that her teachers called her dumb, lazy, and a liar and they taunted her about her belly.
“She got to where she didn’t want to go to school, and Cheyanne’s always loved school. We’ve never had a problem with her. And…she was doing things that, starting to harm herself to keep from going to school. So we knew we had to do something at that point. We weren’t getting anywhere with the school. Every time we’d call, ‘We didn’t do that,’ ‘She’s making up stories’. It was always, ‘Cheyanne’s lying,’” Brian said.
Brian told Curry that when they went to the principal with their concerns, their complaints were always met with the same response; Cheyanne was lying. And when he went to Miami Trace Schools Superintendent Dan Roberts for the first time after getting nowhere with the school’s principal, Roberts told them that they were bordering on slander and harassment and to let it go. He guaranteed that he would provide the best education possible for Brian’s daughter.
Out of sheer frustration, Cheyanne’s parents wired her for sound and were able to tape four days of devastating proof of profound bullying and abuse. Here is a sample of the horrendous things being said to this poor girl.
At one point in the tape, Chaffins became annoyed with Cheyanne over how she had answered a question, saying, “Are you kidding me? Are you that damn dumb? You are that dumb? Oh my God. You are such a liar.”
Cheyanne responded, “I am not lying.”
“No wonder you don’t have friends,” Chaffins bullied her. ”No wonder nobody likes you.”
On another occasion, Chaffins asked Cheyanne, “Don’t you want to do something about that belly?” She and Wilt began to badger her about being lazy, accusing her of just sitting around watching TV. They even called Cheyanne’s parents lazy for not going for a walk with her for exercise.
And there was another time caught on the tape when Wilt refused to even look at a test that Cheyanne had just finished, saying, “…you know what? Just keep it. You failed it. I know it. I don’t need your test to grade. You failed it.”
As if all of this were not enough, at one point on the tape, Cheyanne’s parents heard Chaffins call them “liars raising a liar” after they had called to complain about Wilt and Chaffins forcing their daughter to run on the treadmill as punishment for getting an answer wrong, an episode which was also caught on tape.
Imagine, as a parent, having to listen to this tape; horrific proof of what Cheyanne had claimed all along. Two adults who were supposed to be teaching your child, protecting your child, and encouraging your child, bullying, humiliating, and destroying your child!
Cheyanne’s tearful father said, “We’re listening to seven hours worth of stuff on this tape, so we were up all night crying, upset, cause we didn’t understand why. We didn’t understand why. Why would they do this?”
Finally, when Cheyanne’s parents provided Roberts with the irrefutable proof of what their daughter had been trying to get someone to believe all along, Roberts finally acted. “There was distressing, disturbing things on that tape that caused us to act immediately.” Dan Roberts said. Chaffins was asked to resign.
As far as Wilt was concerned, Roberts said, “We felt the level of her involvement there did not meet with the level that educational aide had done.” Therefore, Wilt was only required to take eight hours of anti-bullying and child abuse training, in compliance with the Ohio Department of Education’s decision.
However, this Monday, the district placed Wilt on an unpaid leave of absence for the remainder of the school year (I’m guessing because the publicity got a little too hot).
But Cheyanne’s family does not feel this is enough, and I must agree. Christie Wilt was the teacher in charge of that classroom. An aide is exactly that; they are there to do what the teacher asks them to do. It is the teacher who sets the tone for their classroom. Wilt allowed this atrocious behavior to continue and participated in it as well. And Wilt is the trained and educated professional who should recognize inappropriate behavior when she sees it or engages in it. To treat her less severely than the aide is a travesty!
The school district settled a lawsuit with the family for $300,000, but the family isn’t done. They are working with their lawyers to see that Wilt is not only fired from the district, but that she lose her teaching license, too.
Brian told Curry, “I just hope they do something with this teacher. She doesn’t need to be around kids at all. She participated in it, she was right there. I’m looking out for (Cheyanne), but also I’m worried about the other children in that class and what they went through. She’s (Wilt) just as much to blame, if not more, because she’s the one who takes that oath to protect our children. She has more education than the teacher’s aide.’’
Brian is right. At the very least, Wilt should be fired. As far as losing her license, would any of you want her teaching your child in the future? I sure wouldn’t!