A video of an Illinois student with special needs being thrown into a bathroom by classmates has sparked outrage and prompted a York Community High School student from Elmhurst to speak out against the bullying of children with disabilities.
The video was posted on social media in December. It showed laughing students shoving another student with Down syndrome into the boy’s bathroom while other classmates stood by encouraging the bullying and doing nothing to stop it.
Addressing the school board and superintendent, according to news reports, Dominic Begora, a senior and member of the school’s football and wrestling teams, said that, “increased education on how to treat and support kids with disabilities is not only needed, but vital to create a community of warmth and helpfulness. And it starts with you.”
Begora went on to state that he feels there is a lack of training for teachers and students alike on how to treat special needs students.
“All that happens in this district is that fires are put out instead of prevented,” he added. Referring to the onlookers, he said, “no student had the courage to stand up,” against the teasing and bullying of the victim.
Bullying is a serious problem for all teens. Approximately 160,000 teens per day skip classes to avoid being harassed at school. But the estimated 6.5 million students in the U.S. with disabilities have an even harder time.
Multiple studies have shown these children are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers.
Advocates for people with disabilities point out that many students with special needs are already facing unique challenges in school. When they are bullied, it can add to their struggle to learn.
The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), a not-for-profit organization working to secure excellence in education on behalf of tens of thousands of students with disabilities, has issued a call for action saying that, “schools must be safe havens that facilitate learning for all students.”