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'Most Annoying Male' award given to Bailly Preparatory Academy fifth grader

Gary parent Rick Castejon says this award was given last month to his 11-year-old son, who has autism, at a Bailly Preparatory Academy awards lunch.

Our social vernacular has been abuzz in recent years with reports regarding how damaging bullying can be on the lives of children.

The direct link of bullying to any number of social ills, including suicide and mass school shootings, has been under the microscope, and entire school programs and symposiums have been dedicated to fighting the bullying of children.

Numerous schools throughout the country have even adopted zero-tolerance polices for bullying.

So the entire Region should be appalled that personnel at a Gary elementary school used an apparently school-sanctioned awards program to mock, and thereby bully, a student with special needs.

People across the country have been reading the headline, no doubt with aghast expressions.

It began with a tip provided to The Times from a Gary 11-year-old's father.

A teacher at Bailly Preparatory Academy recently presented the fifth-grader, who is autistic, with a trophy inscribed as the "most annoying male" award.

The trophy was presented to the student at a fifth-grade awards luncheon in front of other students, parents and school personnel.

The state-appointed emergency manager who presides over the school district had acknowledged the inappropriate act, has apologized and has indicated disciplinary action has been handed down to the responsible party or parties.

But the school district owes constituents of the Gary schools far more transparency, given the gravity of what occurred.

"We were blindsided. We just weren't expecting it," the father, Rick Castejon, said of his son's humiliation.

The autism of Castejon's son means the student is non-verbal, occasionally rocks back and forth and can become easily emotional.

These all are traits of a medical condition, not a determination to be "annoying."

Shame on anyone within a civilized society — let alone supposedly trained educators — to make light of, joke or tease someone for such traits.

Mocking a student with special needs with such an "award" is bullying, plain and simple.

If discipline in this matter hasn't included the firing of any responsible party or parties, then it hasn't gone far enough.

To date, the school district has refused to discuss whether any of the responsible parties remain on the school's payroll.

Parents within the school district — and the public in general — deserve an answer to that question.

We often think of bullies being peers of students. This case redefines that notion in a much more reprehensible way.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.