Dear fellow Dignity Revolutionaries:

Stuart and Akian Chaifetz

We live in a time when any person with a story to tell can tell it.  Technology is not the message but the means for the messengers.  And our field, more than almost any other, needs messengers.

The Dignity Revolution has been stonewalled for centuries in large part because there was no way to tell the stories, no way for the walls of institutions to allow the human faces behind them to be seen, no way for the secret schemes and experiments of hospitals and laboratories to surface, no way for the voices of those with challenges to be heard or believed when abuse was rampant.

Thankfully, that’s changing as the peaceful advocates of the Dignity Revolution now rise up and speak and begin to tell the world the horror stories of abuse and neglect and ridicule that can no longer be ignored.  A few months ago, we read the heart wrenching story of the abusive treatment of Amelia Rivera and her family in Philadelphia. Our community answered the call.  Today, Amelia Rivera is back in line for a transplant.  Together we rose.

A few weeks later, I heard first hand about the denial of legislatively mandated care for people with intellectual disabilities in Panama.  When the volunteers of Special Olympics Panama saw the full extent of the neglect, they created their own clinic and opened the doors so that any person with an intellectual disability would find a doctor ready to heal.  Together we rose.

And today, I watched this video by Stu Chaifetz about teachers and adults who bullied Akian, a ten year old with autism in Cherry Hill New Jersey.  It is a tale of fear and rage, as heartbreaking as it is infuriating.  It is a call to all of us to rise up again, to demand change in Cherry Hill, to ask for an accounting from those who were abusive.   Our own young leaders in Special Olympics Project Unify will understand the horrors of this video perhaps better than anyone.  In a special way, I ask their leadership now.

First and foremost, sign the petition demanding legislative action at Change.org and then share this post with everyone you know.  But we can’t stop there. Let’s flood the switchboards in Cherry Hill, write emails to demand answers, ask your own districts what they do to ensure that this kind of abuse doesn’t go unnoticed in your schools, appeal to your boards of education to repeal any policy that protects any teacher or any adult who is abusive to children.

This is another call to action for our Dignity Revolution.  Thank goodness that the athletes and young leaders of Special Olympics are telling their stories of achievement and health and joy around the world and asking for a stop to humiliation and stigma.  If we needed reminders of why their work to educate the world about difference and their play to bring about a more accepting and joyful future is so important, we have another one today.  Watch the video and then take action.  That’s who we are and that’s what we must do.

Rise up revolutionaries!

Stu’s original video

Stu’s follow up video

Stu and Akian’s story in the media:

Contact info for Cherry Hill Public Schools
Web: http://www.cherryhill.k12.nj.us/
Phone: (856) 429-5600
Dr. Maureen Reusche, Superintendent, x4309
Dr. Lawyer Chapman, Assistant Supt., PreK-12, x4301
Dr. Marianne W. Gaffney, Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum & Instruction, x4311
Susan Bastnagel, Public Information Officer, x4325

Mailing Address:
45 Ranoldo Terrace
Cherry Hill, NJ 08034

6 thoughts on “Rise Up Revolutionaries!

  1. Pingback: Sun-Beams: May 6, 2012

  2. I’m relieved to hear the outrage! Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. MANY, too many, school districts have teachers and aides who think very little of the children in their care. I applaud this dad for advocating and not stopping until there is a public apology. As the parent of a non- verbal son with Down Syndrome and Autism, this is one of my biggest fears! I live in fear of my son being hurt and not knowing, not being able to protect him. I DO understand why he is not suing, money is too easy of an apology. A public apology puts faces to the offense AND requires humility. It makes those people “own” their actions and unfortunately they are still not “sorry”. There is no regret for their actions, they are just cowards still trying to save face. And Cherry Hill School District school board and administrators, you are the worst offenders! Corruption, ignorance and absolute hate is CLEARLY from the top down! It takes courage to stand up for what is right! What you are doing, hiding behind your candy coated statements and lawyers, that is COWARDLY. There is no way any of you should be looked on with any respect. My guess is, NO child is safe under your watch. Show the kids that adults can walk the talk of “anti-bully” statements, that even adults make mistakes and apologize! Give the kids in your care a reason to believe that you care about their well-being…step out from your hiding place, drop the lawyers and do what’s right!

  3. that teacher needs to be fired. there were teacher that treated my peers and I badly i wish there was more justice in the world. Please keep fighting Stu. it means a lot to people like us and your son. a lot of times this world is a crual and cold place for autistics but its people like you that call for justice that show it can be warm and good.

    many thanks, Laura Anderson

  4. I am so glad a big organization like Special Olympics has gotten involved with this situation. I was outraged when I viewed the video the other day, and immediately replied. These situations are intolerable for any child to endure! Thank you for all the support you give.

  5. I am proud to say I am a special education teacher and this story is now being shared with all of our staff in your district. Thank you for sharing. I was outraged when I watched this video. How can someone so mean be a teacher and still have a job. I have lost so much respect for this school district. If you are not happy in your job, then get out, but do not take it out on the students you are working with. The world needs to be aware of this and know that this behavior is not ok.

  6. Tim,
    Thanks for sharing, and thanks for using the Special Olympics platform to speak out against horrific discrimination of people with disabilities. As someone who used to work in a classroom just like the one Akian was/is in, I can’t believe what these teachers were doing, but I bet it happens to varying degrees in classrooms everywhere. We will use our Special Olympics Massachusetts platform to keep fighting this fight as well. Thanks again.

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