A 13-year-old autistic boy has been punched, teased and had his condition mocked in online videos by his peers. But the parents of the accused children say they were justified in bullying the Iowa teen.On Monday, WhoTV.com ran a story about how the classmates of Levi Null had posted a video online showing Null suffering from symptoms of Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. In the video, classmates taunt Null, and teachers in the classroom appear to turn a blind eye to the behavior.
However, the station says that after airing the story, it actually received more than 100 emails from parents, shockingly with many of them defending the bullying at Melcher-Dallas High School, saying the child brings it on himself.
“I would say three-fourths of this stuff he brings on himself and probably a fourth of it is bullying that shouldn’t be going on,” said Levi Weatherly, father of the teen accused of posting the video online.
The school’s principal wrote Null’s mother an email saying the behavior documented in the video does not amount to bullying. Nonetheless, two of the students were disciplined and the video was reportedly deleted.
In a video interview with the station, Principal Josh Ehn actually said it is the students’ responsibility to handle cases of bullying. “We try our best to educate our staff, to educate our students to react to the cases, to investigate the cases we have,” Ehn said. “But ultimately, it’s got to come down to the kids to take ownership for this and to stand up for the kids who can’t stand up for themselves.”
The principal’s decision was defended by School Board President Bob Lepley, who told the station, “I stand by our principal. … According to his investigation I’ll have to stand by him.”
So why would the principal, the school board president and a number of parents defend the alleged bullying?
“He called my nephew a nasty name, and my nephew Cole cocked (sic) him in the mouth,” resident Jamie Harrison wrote to the station. “I’m proud of my nephew for doing that.”
“This kid has done things to get people mad that I think he could probably control,” added resident Nate Goof.
Levi’s mother, Dawn Simmons, says that she herself has even been targeted by some of the parents since complaining to the school about the video.
“It’s been a very frustrating day for all of us,” she said.
However, Simmons told the station that two of the students have since apologized to Levi, saying they didn’t realize how their actions had affected him.
Freshman Nick Brady knows kids could look at him funny. So being new to the JSerra Catholic High School community, he made a video to explain why he does some of the things he does.
Brady’s autism affects his movements, but as he explains in his video, typing is what saved him and allowed to prove that “you can be smart but look dumb.”
He said while he is friendly, sometimes his body is not.
Brady, who went to St. Edward the Confessor Parish School in Dana Point, will be taking three classes at JSerra with the help of two assistants, who also appear at the video. He warns his fellow students that he wears headphones in class and sometimes twists his uniform shirts.
“I’m hoping to wear my clothes the normal way, but I can’t stand the feel of them on my skin,” Brady says in the video. “Sometimes, I just have to pull my pockets out and pull my sleeves in.” To the dean of students, he says directly: “Sorry Mr. [Patrick] Holligan.”
“You will learn about my autism and understand that I am different. It’s hard to be different, but that is how God made me, and I trust Him,” he wrote to his new school family.
This post is by Sheri Mellott
My husband Franklin retired after 23 years in the United States Navy, a decorated naval aviator and test pilot whose combat missions including flying in the opening strike of the Gulf War. During his final 24 months on active duty, all three of our children were diagnosed with special needs including two who were diagnosed on the autism spectrum. It was a blow to the family like we have never experienced nor ever could have imagined. Our dreams for the future began unraveling faster than we could anticipate.
My husband decided he had to retire from active duty to find a better place for our children since it seemed one diagnosis was falling into our lap after another with all of our children. So he accepted a job at Penn State University and we headed to Pennsylvania.
Our oldest child, Alex, now 15 and in the 10th grade, received no early intervention, no behavioral interventions and has been bullied significantly over the last six years of his life. Late one night last week, when I thought Alex had gone to bed, he made this video when he learned that his younger brother Nathaniel was being publicly humiliated by a teacher at school. He told me he’d worked for a week on his persuasion project for Advanced English, a video piece about drunk driving. But he said he was so upset about what had happened to Nathaniel that he decided he needed to do a video about bullying. So he stayed up for two hours late at night and put this together.
My son, Alex asked me to share this in any advocacy circles where it might make a difference to another military child with Autism. He hopes this helps someone… somewhere…
Alex was identified for Gifted Services when he was in 1st grade. He designed his first website when he was five years old. He started his own business called Tech 911 when he was in the 6th grade and provided tech support for about a dozen military spouses aboard Naval Air Station Lemoore California when the Iraq “surge” occurred and the F-18 Hornet community deployed suddenly.
Alex is currently going through a Cisco Systems Academy at his Pennsylvania high school and is eligible to become Cisco-certified in multiple certifications categories.
Alex presented this video to his Advanced English class last Thursday. He said there were no words when it was done running; the teacher said nothing and the students said nothing. So was it persuasive? I believe so. But did he get an A? No, he received a B- because the teacher was not convinced Alex had a personal connection to bullying.
Alex felt very passionately about this video last night. When he showed it to me and told me why he made it, I just watched and wept. Alex suffers from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from bullying events of the past. He verbalizes that he will never be the same. The person he is now is a culmination of all that he has been through. But he feels strongly about advocacy and he really wants to make a difference.
CHILDREN with autism are being targeted by bullies in schools, shocking research has discovered.
More than half of parents of autistic children said they had been victimised rising to 87% of families with children with Asperger syndrome or higher-functioning autism.
And a study by the University of Manchester has found children with autism are two to three times more likely to be bullied than other children.
In cases where children with autism have been bullied, two-thirds of parents said their children have developed mental health problems.
The National Autistic Society (NAS) Cymru has now published advice for parents of children with autism who are worried about bullying in school.
Neil Ingham, of NAS Cymru said: “We are hearing more and more from concerned parents who are unsure how to help their child cope with bullying and how they can approach their child’s school.
“Bullying can have a devastating impact on the life of a young person with autism and our research has found that playground bullying can lead to mental health problems and setbacks in a child’s education and can potentially damage their outcomes later in life.
“Nearly half of all children with autism have been bullied and, because of the communication difficulties associated with this condition, it can be particularly difficult for a person with autism to adopt the strategies and techniques they need to respond and make sense of their experiences of bullying.”
Jonathan Hanna, now 22, who lives in Cardiff, has Asperger syndrome and was bullied while at school.
I remember about 4 years ago my oldest son came home looking a little shaken saying he punched someone on the bus. After the initial shock, we asked what happened. He told us how this one girl on his bus and in his grade began making comments about his brother, who has Autism. This girl was a known bully in his school, easily had 30 lbs and 5 inches on him, and had been suspended previously for starting fights and threatening other students. Nick told us how he first tried to ignore her because she was making generalized statements, trying to get a rise out of anyone on the bus. When she focused on his brother Mike, saying he was weird, he continued to ignore her. When she called his brother repulsive names over and over again, Nick got up and punched her one time on the jaw. She did not say another word after that. After the girl got off the bus, some kids on the bus patted his back as a show of their approval.
As he recalled this incident to us, he had that look that said, ‘I didn’t have a choice, he was calling Mike really bad names’. After the usual talk about violence not achieving anything, we told him we were proud of him for defending his brother’s honor, and for trying his best.
Needless to say, the bus driver had no option but to report the incident to the school principal the next day. Despite my protestation and lengthy reasonable argument, he gave Nick detention for one day. The girl was suspended for a few days, as she was a repeat offender, and later that year transferred to another school.
I don’t advocate or condone violence, and I wish Nick never had to experience this incident. I do, however, take a certain measure of pride in his initial restraint and decision-making. I take a certain measure of pride that he literally looked into the face of a bully, acted briefly and decisively, and did not himself become a bully. I am proud that he ‘owned up’ to his actions, and accepted the penalty his principal gave him.
Nick has always viewed himself as Mike’s defender of sorts; being the oldest, understanding what Autism meant at a young age, and quite often volunteering at his brother’s socialization group at Helping Hands modeling appropriate behavior. This incident only cemented that impression.