Bailly Preparatory Academy has taken disciplinary action against the special education teacher involved.

By Char Adams
David A Land

June 6, 2019

An Indiana couple is outraged after learning that a special education teacher gave their 11-year-old son with autism the award for “Most Annoying Male,”  reports say.

Estella Castejon, of Gary, couldn’t believe her eyes on May 23 when her young son Achilles and another student received the “Bailey Preparatory Academy 2018-2019 Most Annoying Male” award during an event for fifth-graders, NBC affiliate WMAQ reported. (The award showed the school’s name, Bailly Preparatory Academy, misspelled.)

“When I saw it, I had to take a double take at it,” Estella told the station. “I wasn’t sure if my eyes were reading it correctly … I’m not sure of their intention, but it’s hurtful for anyone to get let alone a child who doesn’t even understand what it says.”

Estella and her husband Rick Castejon said Achilles is nonverbal and can be emotional sometimes, adding that he has been bullied, according to WMAQ. They said they don’t believe Achilles understood what was written on the trophy but he “wanted it just because it was a nice, shiny star.”

Gary Community School Corporation emergency manager Peter Morikis told the Times of Northwest Indiana that disciplinary action has been taken against the teacher.

“The Gary Community School Corporation does not condone this type of behavior and will continue to put the safety and well-being of our students first,” Morikis told the publication in a statement. “We extend our deepest apologies to the impacted student, the family and anyone else who take offense to this unfortunate occurrence.”

The event was part of the school’s usual end-of-year awards ceremony, and Rick told the Times that the audience fell silent when the award was announced in front of parents, students and the school’s principal, Carlita Royal.

“We were blindsided. We just weren’t expecting it. As a principal or teacher, you should never let this happen to any student,” Rick told the publication.

He told WMAQ that kids with autism “just want to be liked, they just want to have fun, be treated like normal people. That’s all.”

He said that, after the award was announced, the family did not want to make a scene and opted to leave the trophy behind, according to the Times. However, he claimed the teacher tried to play the incident off as a joke and urged the family to not forget the trophy.

“We just don’t want any other kids to go through this,” Rick told the newspaper. “Just because they have special needs doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.”

Gary Community School Corporation did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE.

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