Awards ceremonies are designed to be a fun wrap-up of the school year – an event where superlatives are assigned to students based on their characteristics. Titles like “Most Improved” and “Most Helpful” are commonly given to students to reward them for their hard work during the school year.
That’s why it came as a surprise to Rick Castejon when his 11-year-old son, Akalis, was awarded “Most Annoying Male” of his fifth-grade class at Bailly Preparatory Academy in Gary, Indiana. Castejon told WWLP, “We were blindsided. We just weren’t expecting it.” Trying to avoid making a scene, Castejon left the award on the table, but was reminded to take it by his son’s teacher. Castejon further noted, “As a principal or teacher, you should never let this happen to any student.”
Akalis is nonverbal and can become easily emotional; he is known to occasionally rock back and forth. Throughout the school year, the administration often called home with concerns about handling the child’s behavior. Castejon noticed the calls came when his son would become emotional or unwilling to do work. He noted, “A special needs education teacher should know how to handle these things.”
In a statement to The Times of Northwest Indiana, Gary Community School Corporation emergency manager, Peter Morikis, shared that an apology had been extended to the family and that disciplinary action had been taken against the personnel involved. Morikis also stated, “We acknowledge the potential impact that an experience like this could have on a child’s mental well-being, self-esteem and overall level of comfortability in a learning environment going forward.”
The Castejon family will be relocating for the upcoming school year and enrolling their son in a new school. The boy’s father is now speaking out to ensure a situation like this does not happen again.