I never was a fan of awards assemblies throughout my years in school. I suppose part of that was because my name was rarely called. It was always the same people who won the same awards. Some of the teachers presenting these awards would even say into the microphone that it “is my own fault” if my name was never called. I suppose there is more to life than being deprived of a ribbon or a trophy at my end of school year awards assembly. That being said, some stories often do take me back to my days in school.
The parents of 11-year-old Akalis Castejon were outraged after their son was presented with a trophy that reads “most annoying male.” He has an Autism diagnosis and is non-verbal. One might expect a child to become upset when he doesn’t know how to communicate his wants or needs. I can understand why a teacher may feel frustrated at times. However, that certainly doesn’t explain or excuse why school employees felt the need to humiliate Akalis in such a way.
I certainly don’t feel sorry for the teacher, and I frankly hope all employees involved in this insulting prank are never allowed to teach in a classroom again. There is one aspect of this story that I personally find the most disturbing. It is the fact that he was unable to pick up on the fact that his trophy was indeed a prank. Experiences have shown me that people are bound to take note of that. They are bound to use that as an opportunity to humiliate the child because they know they would never get away with subjecting a neurotypical child to such treatment.
I had my annoying moments back when I was in fifth grade. I went through this phase where I was obsessed with Dory from Finding Nemo. The same thing goes true for my utterances of “Polly want a cracker.” It gave me an audience. I took advantage of that by speaking whale and talking like a parrot at any opportunity I could find. My fifth-grade teacher would even laugh. However, it started to get old pretty quick. It took having to stay in for recess a few times to send the message that there is a time when it is okay to chat and joke around. There is also a time when we must be quiet and listen to the person speaking.
I had excellent teachers growing up. I still keep in touch with some of them today. They all had a strong moral compass. They all set amazing examples both for my classmates and for me. Therefore, I am sure they know the lifelong scars that a prank like the one pulled on Akilas Castejon has the potential to scar a child for life. I am grateful for them. I look back on my memories from junior high and high school. I realize how easy it is to focus on those who were everything but kind. I hope that Akilas and his family remember that, no matter how cruel some adults may be.
Update: Three teachers and a principal have been fired for their involvement in this offensive prank.