People across the globe were outraged this week after a viral video showed a teacher take a microphone away from an autistic child during a school play. Unfortunately, the story and the video have been edited to tell a sensational story, but not the whole truth.
In the edited video, young Caleb can be seen patiently waiting for his turn at the microphone. Just as he’s about to say “Gobble, gobble” a teacher known only as ‘Mrs. Lindsey’ removes the microphone and walks away. Caleb is left crying onstage and the person behind the camera can be heard saying “She didn’t have to do that.”
When Inside Edition covered this story they quoted Amanda, Caleb’s mother, saying “She went up and she snatched that microphone from him. What would it have hurt to give him a few extra seconds to say ‘gobble, gobble?'” ‘Mrs. Lindsey’ has been targeted with received threats of violence, death, and rape by viewers who watched less than 1 minute of a 13 minute video.
Now it’s time to reveal the rest of the story. Teachers who work at the school have revealed that Caleb’s parents did not intend for him to participate in the play until the day of the performance. They never signed the require permission slip sent out 3 weeks in advance, nor did they bring Caleb to a single rehearsal. On the day of the performance they changed their mind, and the school attempted to accommodate their request. A turkey was not originally included, but his teacher found a costume and did her best to include Caleb in the play despite his family’s complete lack of planning. Each child had learned a few lines about the history of Thanksgiving and would approach the microphone to recite their part in a specific order. Caleb, who had not rehearsed and did not have any lines, was quickly taught how to participate in the “Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving!” chorus.
In the full video Caleb clearly gets plenty of attention onstage and can be seen speaking into the microphone at the 6:01, 7:15, and 8:13 minute marks. When he’s not cutting in line to speak in the microphone, Caleb can be seen wandering behind the other students and waving his hands in the air. His comments into the mic received plenty of laughs and smiles from the audience, but all of them were unplanned and improvised. The only reason this disruptive behavior was allowed at all was because his teacher loved him and knew he was having fun. Sadly, no one will remember that.
Sarah Howorth, a teacher at Nutter Fort Primary, discussed what really happened on her friend Suzanne Hines’ Facebook page:
“Despite what people are saying, no, the show was not to end with the little boy saying “gobble gobble”, because there was no turkey in the play. There has never been a turkey in that play for the last 10+ years the school has performed it. In fact, the poor little guy at the center of all this unnecessary grief wasn’t even suppose to be there. His family brought him at the last minute, even though he hadn’t turned in the permission slip that was due weeks prior, nor did he ever practice the show. Despite all of that, my coworkers graciously found an extra costume and allowed him to join the chorus so he could be included.
What no one saw outside of that 17 second clip, was our friend running up to the microphone several times and speaking in it, even though he was never to be near it because he did not have a speaking part and therefore in doing so added some confusion and chaos to the play. But that was ok, we as teachers work in chaos all day long, so we’re pretty good at rolling with it. Plus, the child was having fun, and that’s the whole point of it all. However, the show could not go on all night with children rushing the microphone to say or shout whatever they please, so after the designated last speaker said “Happy Thanksgiving to all.”, that was when my coworker was to take down the mic. And that is what she did. No harm. No malice.”
By the time the play is almost over the edited “viral video” begins. All of the other moments are ignored, and Caleb appears to be waiting patiently for his turn, when in reality he has had multiple turns at the microphone. The play ends, and a teacher removes the mic not out of malice, but because the final scripted line was her cue to do so. She was not punishing Caleb, and she did not know what he planned to say.
She will not be remembered as the teacher that let a young boy with autism have fun on stage. She will not be remembered as the teacher who bent over backwards to make up for a parent’s lack of planning. Instead she will be forever remembered as the cruel woman who broke an autistic child’s heart in a fictitious tabloid ‘news’ story.
The manner in which she removed the microphone and how that emotionally affected Caleb and his family is up for debate. One thing is crystal clear, the teacher did not steal an autistic boy’s moment in the sun. Could she have reacted differently? Possibly, but she is not evil and does not deserve hatred. If anything, she went out of her way to accommodate Caleb and his family. In return for her kindness, she has been vilified in the eyes of the world because that makes a better ‘news’ story. After viewing the full video, it’s arguable that she would have done the same thing for any student who tried to continue speaking after the performance had ended.
Sarah continued to defend her co-worker on Facebook
My coworker is an amazing teacher. And a wonderful person. I can promise she would not be working at my school if she weren’t.
My school, despite what the Internet is claiming, is a wonderful place that strives to always put the kids and their needs above anything else. People ask me all the time why I drive an hour one way to work each day, and my answer is simple. I get to wake up and go to my dream job every day. And I don’t feel that way solely because I get to wake up every day and go teach. It’s because I get to wake up and go teach at Nutter Fort Primary. NFP is an amazing place, filled with even more amazing people. I have never felt so welcome and at home at a job. I have never felt so supported by a boss like my principals support me, and even on stressful days, I have never felt so happy to go to work.
In the few months I have been there, the Fort staff have become like family to me. We love our jobs, we love each other, and we especially love every one of our kids. No matter what lies get spread, we know the truth, we support each other, and we will continue to love, support, and educate every child that walk through the doors of Nutter Fort Primary.”
While it is important to understand the plight of students with special needs, it is equally important to understand the role of teachers in providing boundaries for their students. In reality, the only thing she did wrong was giving special treatment to a child with special needs because she wanted him to feel included with the other students. Had she simply told Caleb’s parents “No” when they requested to include him at the last minute, her reputation would still be intact.