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Mother Defends Her Child With Autism at School Board Meeting

Posted at: 04/09/2013 10:43 PM
Updated at: 04/10/2013 1:11 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- It was a video that shocked many. A Rochester paraprofessional caught on camera being rough with an autistic student. Tuesday, that mother publicly addressed the school board in tears.

Our reporters were at both the rally and the school board meeting Tuesday. First a group of roughly 50 or more met to rally, handing out T-shirts and bracelets for autism awareness. Once the meeting got underway, that boy's mother and others who are personally affected by autism, took the stand.

Jade Werth’s son Austin was seen in a surveillance video with his paraprofessional. The video shows that employee being rough with him.

“I had to pull over and vomit. This is a very real situation, no parent wants to hear that phone call," said Jade. However, she says the phone call came from the Minnesota Department of Education, not from the school. They told her it was because of the Data Privacy Act. "To date, I have not received an incident report from the school and that needs to change," said Jade.

Which is why she took the stand Tuesday night, speaking for her son who couldn’t tell her something was wrong because he's nonverbal. "He can't, and let me tell you beyond these tears, don't let them fool you, I'm angry. I am an angry mother, I am sad, I am frustrated, I am personally offended," said Jade to the board.

"Mainstream kids, when they go to school and if something happens to them, they're able to go home and tell parents or care givers what happened. Our kids with specials needs, in this case autism where 50 percent of them are nonverbal, they don't have that opportunity," said Brad Trahan with the Autism Awareness Foundation.

"He thought it was ok over the course of a class hour to bully my nonverbal, developmentally disabled, autistic son by means of kicking him, pushing him, shoving him until his head hits the window. Are you hearing me? I could tell by my sons body language, although he is nonverbal, that he was terrified," said Jade.

Which is why people came out to rally behind Jade and Austin, to give her son and their own loved one's a voice. "I saw the video and was appalled," said Melanie Flaherty, the mother of a boy with autism.

"It's time for changes and time for accountability. I think the school needs to stop hiding behind the Data Privacy Act and protect the children, not the employees," said Jade.

Another thing that upset her, was that the employee was never fired. The school pulled him from his position as a paraprofessional, but he now works as a custodian at another school in the district.

Brad Trahan called it the most upsetting public comment period he's spoken at, saying they were rudely cut off. The district does have a 3 minute policy, but Trahan says the board could've handled it differently.