GARY — The Gary Community School Corp. has taken its first steps in firing three teachers related to the awarding last month of a "Most Annoying Male" trophy to a fifth grade student who has autism.
The three Bailly Preparatory Academy teachers have been served a preliminary determination notice of contract cancellation following an internal investigation led by outside legal counsel, according to a statement from the school district.
The Gary schools statement did not name individual personnel involved.
The school's principal, Carlita Royal, has been placed on paid administrative leave pending further investigation by outside legal counsel and Gary's human resources department, according to the statement.
"Our main concern is the well-being of the children who have been entrusted to us," Emergency Manager Peter Morikis said in the statement. "Their safety, physically and emotionally, is our top priority.
Bailly Preparatory Academy is a kindergarten through fifth grade school in the public Gary Community School Corp.
The Times first broke the story Monday. It garnered national media attention and community backlash.
The student's parent, Rick Castejon, told The Times earlier this week his 11-year-old son was given the trophy by his special education teacher at the May 23 lunch in front of other students and parents.
Castejon said he was disgusted by the unexpected award, but the reality of what had happened didn't sink in until later that night while discussing it with his wife.
Morikis met with members of the Castejon family the week following the lunch to extend an apology and discuss the actions of school personnel.
Gary schools issued a statement Monday saying generally that disciplinary action was taken against involved personnel.
However, the district has declined repeated requests this week to specifically discuss the fifth grader's special education teacher.
A spokeswoman for Gary schools said on Friday the district will not be giving names of the three teachers involved at this time.
Castejon, whose son is nonverbal, said he is happy the school corporation has taken action, but that he and his family still have concerns for the treatment of autistic children in the area.
He said his family plans to move to Valparaiso before next school year — a decision the family had been discussing prior to the May 23 lunch.
"I'm glad they did something," Castejon said. "But, we have to worry about the other kids around here even though we're gone."
The Castejon family has been overwhelmed with support for the fifth grader following news of the Bailly awards lunch.
Readers from across the country have offered to send letters, replacement trophies and even scholarship funds to the family, though Castejon said he's not accepting major gifts — just cards and letters.
The father said he was surprised by the spread of his son's experience and never anticipated the attention sharing his story would bring.
"We're not looking for any handouts," Castejon said. "We just wanted a voice."
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