In Louisiana, A ninth-grader with cerebral palsy did not want to go back to school when he found out that his classmates were making fun of him. They had taken the electric wheelchair that he was assigned and rode around in it while making noises to mock his speech.
Students at Abbeville high school in Abbeville, Louisiana, located about 20 miles south of Lafayette, pulled a senior prank last week. After an employee gave them two keys to enter the school, the teens entered and began to film themselves creating minor havoc. The teens screamed and threw toilet paper around, but eventually found an electric wheelchair that was being used by Tay’Shawn, a freshman at ABH with cerebral palsy. The wheelchair was driven up and down the hall by several students. Some students danced on it lasciviously, while others made sounds that mocked the speech of someone with disabilities. The laughter of others around them was raging. Thankfully, Tay’Shawn wasn’t present when this occurred.
Kimberly Mitchell shared clips of the prank on social media and expressed her anger at the students who were insensitive to Tay’Shawn. “Sr. Pranks can be fun, but when you mock my disabled child and his possessions, then it becomes MY PROBLEM!” Mitchell posted on Facebook. “… I was hurt to see my son unhappy and not want to return to school, because he thought people were making fun of him for being different. What would you feel if you were in his shoes?
In an interview with reporters, Tay’Shawn indicated that he felt humiliated by the prank and betrayed by his fellow students. “I was upset. I was mad. I was crying. I tried to stop myself from crying because I wanted to go to school. I couldn’t. I was just upset,” he said. “Some people that I go to school with and they want to turn their back on me and do this. That is not acceptable.”
Mitchell had stated in her Facebook post that she wanted the students involved in the prank to face “consequences,” but she later clarified in a lengthy statement that she wants such consequences only if the chair, which she valued at $15,000, was damaged during the revelry. Tay’Shawn and his family do not own the chair. It belongs to the school with the understanding that he alone will use it to help him move about on school property.
Marilyn Mitchell, one of Tay’Shawn’s grandmothers said: “His ambulation was horrible.” Tay’Shawn is able to take a few small steps using a walker but his mobility has been severely restricted. Tay’Shawn can move around in a chair, rather than struggling with a walker.
Tommy Byler, Superintendent of the Vermilion Parish Board of School Boards, issued a press release regarding this incident. He condemned all acts that “reduce respect for students with disabilities”, and any “behaviors which include damage to property at school.” In the statement, it was stated that Tay’Shawn had apologized for the incident. However, they could be held responsible if damage to the chair occurred. The statement hinted at “disciplinary action” for the employee who gave the keys to the pranksters.
Kimberley Mitchell said that while she has no bad feelings towards the teenagers, she hopes that they will consider other peoples’ feelings before making jokes. She stated that she and her son did not hate or dislike anyone involved in this situation. It was a real eye-opener for them. Don’t be a follower. Be a leader. You should think beyond what is in front of your face.
She continued, “Take this as a lesson for life.” “We can laugh at ourselves, not realizing the harm we could cause to others.” “You may find yourself in my position one day, raising or caring someone with a handicap.” “You might have to be the voice for that person.” “You never know what God will do in your life.”