A voice crying out for help is silenced
Christian Ranieri is a 14-year-old autistic boy from Northport, NY who went to his local school board to argue in his own defense against a suspension he received. Ranieri wanted the board to review their decision, arguing it was discriminatory and would put a blot on his record. But officials refused to hear him out.
Their reasonings were delivered by the president of the board, Stephen Waldenburg, who said: “The Northport-East Northport Board of Education applauds ninth grade student Christian Ranieri for having the courage to come forward at the Board of Education meeting of Monday, October 7th, to share his perspectives. But Christian’s speech veered into a revelation of details regarding a pending disciplinary matter and individuals associated with it, and thus on two occasions, I explained to him why those parts of the speech were inappropriate. We recognize the sensitivities of this issue, but stand firm in ensuring that we are in full compliance with all State and Federal laws, as our oath of office requires.”
Ranieri had been disciplined for having an “outburst” during a discussion with his teacher over his individualized education program. He argued that the teacher was not implementing the program properly. In order to make his case, he spent hours on his speech so that he would be able to explain why he was in distress to the board.
In his speech that is currently going viral on the web, Ranieri says, “When I was five, I cried a lot and would throw myself on the floor when I got frustrated. I am proud to say that now I can speak clearly and to the best of my ability, try to deal with my frustration in words. I feel like the decision made by the person at Northport High School to suspend me for two days was discriminatory on the part that I have autism and the fact that she thought what happened was not a result of my autism.” He then went on to discuss how there was a problem with the implementation of his plan but was suddenly cut off by the board during his speech.
“I understand what you’re saying. I just have to ask you to please understand that boards of education are unable to legally, both on the federal and state level, to discuss student disciplinary actions in public sessions so I would ask you to please be careful in what you’re saying. It is something the board cannot entertain in public session,” Stephen Waldenburg said.
Ranieri continued to speak but Waldenburg shouted, “This entire discussion which involves disciplinary action is totally improper for a public session!” But attendees at the meeting yelled out “Let him be heard!” Then Ranieri was shut down and told to go through the superintendent, who has ten days to respond in writing concerning the issue.
Video of Ranieri’s speech