(NEWTON, Ala.) — Two Alabama teachers have been put on administrative leave after the mother of a 10-year-old student with cerebral palsy attached an audio recorder to the bottom of his wheelchair and caught them scolding him about drooling, among other things.
Jose Salinas, or as his friends and family call him, “Little Joe,” is in fourth grade at Wicksburg High School, a public school in Newton, Ala. Jose has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair at school, but is high-functioning and can walk with a walker.
His mother, Melisha Salinas, a nursing student, knew he didn’t enjoy school and would come home sick many days, but he would tell her he had a “good day” every day when she asked.
A psychologist told Salinas, 31, the problem could be stress or anxiety, but she didn’t know the source.
One day, a little girl in Jose’s class who lives in the neighborhood told Salinas that the teacher’s aide had been mean to Jose three times that day. Salinas got Jose to confirm two of the instances, but wanted to be sure.
“I went ahead and put a recorder on his wheelchair to make sure for myself,” Salinas said.
She recorded several days of class in mid-March and was “shocked” with 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.”
Over the three days of recordings, Salinas said Jose received about 20 minutes of actual instruction and spent almost the entire day sitting in silence with no one speaking to him.
After Salinas listened to the recordings, she took Jose out of school. She said that when Jose is at home, she can’t get him to stop talking, but in the tapes he was “dead silent.”
Salinas took the recordings to the school board and the teachers were put on administrative leave. But last Friday, the teachers were back at school.
“They were back at the school and my children were there so I got them out of school and so did several angry parents,” Salinas said. “I just lost all hope. Nobody was listening to me.”
The normally “shy and reserved” Salinas had hoped to handle the matter quietly with the school, but when the teachers were returned to their positions, she shared the recordings with her local newspaper.
By Monday, the teachers were back on paid administrative leave, and on April 9 the school board will meet to decide what further action to take.
For now, Jose is back in school and his mother said he has been doing much better.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Eliott C. McLaughlin and Holly Yan, CNN
Debra Goldschmidt, CNN
Kathryn Vasel, CNN