Mom Melisha Salinas knew something wasn’t right. Her son, Jose, who has cerebral palsy, hated going to school, and came home sick many days. His grades were dropping. But when she asked how his day was, he’d always say he’d had a good day.
Ten-year-old Jose, who friends and family call “Little Joe,” uses a wheelchair at school, but can also walk in a walker, and loves to talk about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Power Rangers. Jose attends Wicksburg High School, a K-12 school in Houston County, Alabama.
“We knew he hated going to school,” Ms. Salinas told ABC News. “We tried every medical test we could think of, but we never could find anything wrong.”
A psychologist thought the problem could be stress or anxiety, but the family couldn’t identify the source. That changed when a girl in Jose’s class told Ms. Salinas that the teacher’s aide had been “mean” to Jose three times that day. The mom got her son to confirm at least some of what the girl had said, but still wanted to be sure.
So she attached a recorder to Jose’s wheelchair, and audio-recorded Jose’s time at school over three days. She was shocked by what she heard.
“You drooled on the paper,” a male’s voice, allegedly that of teacher’s aide Drew Faircloth, could be heard saying impatiently. “That’s disgusting.”
“Keep your mouth closed and don’t drool on my paper,” a woman’s voice said, allegedly teacher Alicia Brown. “I do not want to touch your drool. Do you understand that? Obviously, you don’t.”
Ms. Salinas also said that in three days of recordings, Jose received about 20 minutes of actual instruction and spent almost the entire day sitting in silence with no one speaking to him.
School superintendent Tim Pitchford told local newspaper The Lothan Eagle, “there were some very disturbing things on the tape. Employees were not very compassionate to the needs of the child and the symptoms of his disability. It did not appear on the tapes that there was much teaching going on.”
Jose’s family has uploaded the audio clips to YouTube, accompanied by photos of Jose and his twin brother, who does not have cerebral palsy. In the video below, you can clearly hear an adult woman’s voice (presumed to be his teacher, Alicia Brown) berating him for drooling.
Warning: The audio recordings are very upsetting.
In this clip, you can hear a male voice (presumed to be aide Drew Faircloth), yelling at Jose in the bathroom.
In this clip, Jose is again scolded for drooling. “That’s disgusting,” says the male voice.
The teacher and the classroom aide are both on paid leave while Houston County Board of Education administrators investigate the accusations.