Cherry Hill schools chief says staffers heard on tape no longer employed

Posted: April 25, 2012

In response to concerns raised about an audio recording on which Cherry Hill School District staff allegedly verbally abused a special-education student, the district superintendent issued a statement Tuesday saying that the individuals heard on the recording were no longer employed.

“I want to assure our parents that the individuals who are heard on the recording raising their voices and inappropriately addressing children no longer work in the district and have not since shortly after we received the copy of the recording,” said Maureen Reusche.

The district did not say exactly which staff members heard on the tape were no longer employed.

Earlier Tuesday, three South Jersey state legislators had called on the district to reopen its investigation of the alleged verbal abuse of a 10-year-old autistic boy by staff at Horace Mann Elementary School.

Stuart Chaifetz, an animal-rights activist and former school board candidate, sent his son Akian to school with an audio recording device Feb. 17 and was outraged by what he heard. He said he turned over the recording — which includes what he considers to be inappropriate adult conversation in front of children as well angry-sounding and bully-like comments — to district officials. He made parts of the audio public this week on the Internet, posting the recording and an accompanying video of comments by him on YouTube, because he said he wants the staff that was involved or present to publicly apologize to his son.

In a joint statement, State Sen. James Beach, Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, all Democrats from Burlington or Camden Counties, said:

“This type of alleged verbal abuse of any child by trusted adults in the classroom is disturbing. The school district should immediately undertake a thorough and rigorous investigation, and if it is found that any teacher, aide, or other adult staff member engaged in this deplorable abuse, they should be fired immediately.

“As parents, we send our children to school to learn, to grow, and to realize their full potential. We trust the adults in our schools — the teachers, the administration and the support staff — to look after the well-being of our kids. And the vast majority of them do so with commendable passion and dedication. That is why we cannot permit verbal abuse like this of any child to occur in our schools. If these allegations are verified through an investigation, the individuals involved should be fired.”

Chaifetz wants legislators to pass a law requiring that school staff who bully students be fired.

Contact staff writer Rita Giordano at 856-779-3842 or rgiordano@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter@ritagiordano.

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