Parents of special-education students in a Northern Westchester School District took a local Board of Education to task after new details emerged about the circulation of lewd photos and videos of their children on social media.
Earlier this month, news broke out of the Bedford Central School District regarding depictions of special-needs students after photos were allegedly taken inside one of the boys' bathrooms at Fox Lane High School in Bedford.
- Original story - Students At Northern Westchester HS Face Disciplinary Action After ‘Disturbing Incident’
Once news of the photos and videos reached parents of those students, the Bedford Board of Education and the district's administration came under fire, with one parent even reportedly offering a $1,000 reward for information that led to the prosecution of the students involved.
During a packed Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 6, Board members unanimously agreed to hire an independent third-party consultant to determine how the district can improve its policies, culture, and training “to protect the safety and privacy of all students.”
However, that wasn’t enough for many parents, some of whom had children who were among those bullied at Fox Lane.
A Pound Ridge resident who said her autistic son was victimized said that he was subjected to having naked photos and videos disseminated on social media.
“We are still struggling daily to comprehend what would compel an individual to even consider perpetrating this severe and heinous crime to our most vulnerable student,” she said.
“I’m a longtime Pound Ridge resident and Fox Lane graduate … The fact that we live in a community where anyone can prey on innocent victims who cannot voice it or even report what happened is despicable.”
Other parents also made note that some of the students who were targeted are non-verbal, making them unable to defend themselves or alert parents or teachers. Others called the entire incident an institutional failure on “multiple levels.”
“Policies are simply words,” one woman said in regard to the district previously forming an “equity committee.” “The words only matter if and when they’re put into context and action, but there is no action for (special education) students.”
Another parent from Pound Ridge who has three children in the district said that she has been encouraging the administration to take steps to ensure there is no bullying of special education students for some time, cries which she said have fallen on deaf ears.
“I’ve spoken several times over the past few years about how special education students are most marginalized in our district, and I’ve been disregarded at best and disputed by the administration at worst.
“This most recent incident only furthers my assessment of the treatment of (special education) students at BCSD,” she continued. “You don’t know what you don’t know. And you can’t unless you have a child who has special needs. You just can’t.”
A Mount Kisco resident who identified herself as an educator who has two children in the district - including one who is autistic - called the actions “unspeakable.”
“Parents leave their children in my care, as my classroom is an extension of their home … A safe haven for their children,” she said. “It is my job and privilege to have full transparency with these parents to not only educate but protect their children.
"Anything less is unspeakable."
She added that “transparency has always been problematic and respect for our special education community is horribly lacking.
“The recent horrific events shed a light on unjust treatment and total disregard for this underappreciated community,” she said. "You may underestimate those who are not able to speak, but you have clearly underestimated the ones willing to speak for them.”
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