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Dad plants bug on autistic son to confirm school mistreatment

By Leigh Remizowski, CNN
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Thu April 26, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Stuart Chaifetz said he placed a recording device in the pocket of his son, Akian
  • The 10-year-old boy has been diagnosed with autism
  • Six hours of recordings revealed teachers apparently talking about alcohol and sex, he says
  • Schools officials say they "responded swiftly and appropriately" after investigating

(CNN) -- A New Jersey man has launched a website to publicize what he calls "a culture of bullying" by teachers in his son's Cherry Hill classroom after sending the boy -- who has been diagnosed with autism -- to school with a covert recording device.

Stuart Chaifetz said he placed the recorder in the pocket of his 10-year-old son, Akian, in an attempt to find out why staffers at Horace Mann Elementary School had reported that the boy had been acting out and hitting his teachers.

What surfaced was more than six hours of recordings of what he says are teachers and aides apparently talking about alcohol and sex in front of the class, punctuated by yelling at his son to "shut your mouth."

Chaifetz posted the recording online Monday, which has since led to disciplinary actions, including the removal of at least one teacher, school officials said.

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At one point, an adult female voice can be heard saying in the recording, "I had a bottle of wine with my girlfriend last night." The second female voice asks if she spent the morning "heaving."

"Oh my God, so bad," the first woman responds. "The wine won."

Chaifetz said he reached out to school officials to report the alleged actions of the teacher and her aides.

"The school district was as horrified as I was," he said.

In an online statement, Cherry Hill Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Maureen Reusche said that the district investigated the recordings and "responded swiftly and appropriately."

"I want to assure our parents that the individuals who are heard on the recording raising their voices and inappropriately addressing children no longer work in the district and have not since shortly after we received the copy of the recording," she said.

Chaifetz -- who said he didn't think the disciplinary action went far enough -- posted a video on YouTube of himself denouncing the incident, interspersed with the recordings. He also launched a website called "No More Teacher/Bullies," with additional audio clips of the incident.

He said his son can be heard screaming and crying in the recording.

Chaifetz said an earlier meeting with school officials about his son's behavior prompted the decision to place the recording device in the boy's pocket. He wasn't getting answers as to why Akian had been acting out, so he decided to bug the boy, he said.

It was unlike his son to misbehave and hit his teachers, Chaifetz said, though he had difficulty getting answers from Akian because he struggles with speaking.

"He wasn't able to come home and say, 'Dad, they called me a name today.'"

Chaifetz says he wants an apology from the teachers and claims one of them apparently has been transferred to a local high school in the same district. CNN cannot independently confirm that claim.

School officials said they would not comment on personnel issues.

CNN's Mary Snow contributed to this report.

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