Cherry Hill Dad: 'Bully' Still Works in My District

Stuart Chaifetz claims that his son Akian's special-needs teacher hasn't been terminated despite a statement from the Cherry Hill school district that swift, appropriate action was taken.

Rather than firing Kelly Altenburg, the special education teacher in whose class 10-year-old Akian Chaifetz allegedly was called "a bastard" by his caretakers, Cherry Hill Public Schools have apparently instead transferred her within the district.

Stuart Chaifetz, Akian's dad, makes this claim in a second YouTube video posted about the reported abuse his son suffered in his special needs classroom.

In February, Chaifetz sent his son to school with a covert recording device to capture evidence of his harassment from classroom teachers. In an  that has drawn worldwide attention and wide rebuke, he plays audio samples of the alleged abuse.

Yesterday, Cherry Hill Public Schools officials insisted that those people heard in the recording no longer work in the district. But in a follow-up video today, Chaifetz demonstrates that Altenburg may be reached through the Cherry Hill High School West phone system.

Chaifetz says this discovery contradicts a statement released yesterday by Superintendent Maureen Reusche 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.”

Janet Cohen, a spokesperson for Reusche, told Patch, "the statement is accurate, and we have no further comment at this time."

Whether the district is trying to say that Altenburg may not have been heard directly abusing his son, Chaifetz says, she contributed to an environment in which it happened.

"She was responsible for the protection of my son and she betrayed him," Chaifetz says in a follow-up video. He then dials into the school phone directory to play Altenburg's voicemail greeting for the camera.

with a previous, 17-minute YouTube video in which he excerpts highlights of alleged bullying from the six-and-a-half hours of audio he claims to have gathered by sending his son to school with a secret recording device.

The tactic is being applied by other concerned parents of autistic children nationwide who suspect their children may be at risk. Autism renders Akian and many of his classmates mostly non-communicative, a vulnerability Chaifetz alleges teachers exploited to hold inappropriate and even abusive classroom conversations in front of him.

"On the morning of Friday, Feb. 17, 2012, I wired my son and sent him to school," Stuart Chaifetz writes on his website Teacher/Bully. "That night, when I listened to the audio, my life changed forever."

Voices in the recording, which include that of resource teacher Jodi Sgouros, tell 10-year-old Akian that he is "such a bastard," order him to "shut [his] mouth," and antagonize him by telling him "no" when he asks for reassurances that he will see his father soon.

Chaifetz says he has been flooded with stories from people who tell their own tales of abuse or bullying. He says he is available to teach parents how to affix a wire to their kids if they suspect their children may be at risk.

"Protect your child. Don't let it happen," Chaifetz urges parents. "If your instinct is telling you something is wrong, follow your instinct."

Matt Skoufalos (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 03:57 PM
We appreciate all the feedback we've gotten from everyone since this story broke. I want to thank our readers for sending us the heads-up on this recent update as well. A quick reminder about comments. We appreciate that this is a sensitive issue for many readers. Please confine your passionate feelings to the issue and not making libelous assertions, hateful personal attacks, or anything that would lower the very high bar you've already set for the discourse on our site. A good rule of thumb: always remember there is another human being on the other side of your keyboard who is reading what you post. Thank you for trusting Patch with your important news. We will continue to work our hardest to make this a place where everyone can come for engaged, lively community discussions.
John Stevenson April 25, 2012 at 07:25 PM
As justified as he dad's tactics to protect his son are, I would caution parents to fully investigate this tactic of placing a covert recording device on their children to record conversations while the parent is not present. To the best of my knowledge New Jersey law allows anyone to record a conversation they are a party to and are participating in, without the consent of the other party or parties. This situation may be in a legally grey area in as much as the parent is not present and participating in the conversations they are intercepting/recording. This would be as if someone was recording the telephone conversation between two other people without a warrant, which would be in villation of State and Federal wiretap laws. I would hate to see anyone treating a child this way have their actions mitigated by the use of a tactic that the courts may find illegal. I would suggest that parents either check with a lawyer or better yet the Prosecutor's Office in the County in which they live. They would be the entity that would have to determine the application of any criminal complaints if filed
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 07:37 PM
It's a point very well taken, John. Do we have any legal experts among our readers who would be willing to offer an (unofficial) opinion?
matt April 25, 2012 at 08:41 PM
train by day, joe rogan post cast by night...all day
John Stevenson April 25, 2012 at 10:18 PM
I have done a litle research on the internet at some resonably reliable sites which seems to reference a New Jersey Law 2A:156A-4(d) which states that it is legal for someone not acting under the color or authority of a law enforcement officer to record a conversation which they are a party to with the consent of only one person involved in the conversation and without the consent of the other party. This is only if you do not intent to use the recording for an illegal or injurious act. In other words I could record a conversation to which I was not a party to with the consent of only one party involved in the conversation. In this incident I do not know if the legal requirement of consent could be applied to the son given his age and mental status. This is in no way a "Legal" interpretation of the statute only my opinion of what I read.
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Thanks for that, John. I had the same questions upon reading--the idea that a child could willingly or unwillingly participate, or could offer consent--these seem to be the issues for a judge.
Jamie Klimas DelaCruz April 26, 2012 at 01:54 AM
what you guys are leaving out is....the person who is unknowingly being recorded has to have a reasonable expectation of privacy..hello....she is a teacher in a public school....she wasn't recorded in her home....she was in a public institution...
John Stevenson April 26, 2012 at 03:17 AM
I have heard of the concept of the reasonable expectation of privacy but I could not find any reference to it in the 2A statute. The statute may have been modified by subsequent caselaw interpretations by the court though. Anyway I would strongly suggest anyone planning to do this consult with an attorney or a legal advisor from the Prosecutor's Office in the County in which they live. Each Prosecutor's Office has a legal advisor who consults with police officers as to appropriate charges in cases and I'm sure they wouldnt have any problem giving you guidance. As justified as this is in stopping the abuse, violating the statute is an indictable offense (crime) and makes you subject to civil penalties. I would hate to see some abusive teacher make money in a civil suit against a parent trying to protect their child.
Cindy April 26, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Legal research, legal interpretation, blah blah, blah...The bottom line is this child is a victim of abuse. Fire the teacher.
John Stevenson April 26, 2012 at 03:22 AM
I could not agree with you more but when your standing in front of a judge the blah, blah, blah part is what he will be looking at.
Ken Marizo April 26, 2012 at 01:04 PM
It is time for these schools to start installing video cameras in every classroom. (fairly inexpensive). This keeps everyone honest. The cameras/software will allow a parent to use any computer and remotely log into a secured website and view their child's classroom in real time. Many school districts in Maryland & California have these systems installed. This helps teachers as well. The students are less prone to act up in class or talk back to the teacher once they know that they are being monitored. Yes, in the beginning the teachers unions cried 'invasion of privacy' but logic prevailed. Something to talk about.....
D M J April 26, 2012 at 01:53 PM
This whole situation is so sad. Parents send their children to school to learn and hope that the teachers are there to help them and make them feel safe as well any situation whether it is bullying or not. I can say that teachers were not like this when we were in school, back in the 60's & 70's. Times have changed and it is sad the way things are today in the school systems. Some Teachers today want a class room free of kids without disablity's so they don't have to deal with them. " They disrupt the class" ...like I said, it is sad
John Stevenson April 26, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Having graduated high school in 1976 I can't remember one teacher I ever had from K-12 who I didn't feel almost as close to as my parents. Every one including all the teachers in high school always made me feel like they cared about me personally. The male teachers were like big brothers and the females were like moms. This was without exception. I am so sorry that some kids today can't have this. It makes me sad to see this time has gone by and these kids are forced to grow up in a world which is a litttle colder and crueler than I did. Thank you to all the teachers I had in Somerdale Park School and Sterling High School. The gifts you gave me can never be repaid.
Jennifer Robinson April 27, 2012 at 12:06 AM
I agree with Mr. Stevenson...I graduated in 1988, went to many different public schools due tn my dad getting job transfers. Boyerstown, PA, Pearl River, LA, Parkersburg WV, just to name a few~I loved all of my teachers & not once did I ever see or hear any staff abuse any kid like that, not even close, not once. What is heard on that audio is horrifying, there's nothing that can be said or done to explain or excuse it. That is abuse, period. All adults in that classroom as well as the school district must be held accountable. From what I understand, there were three staff members...the teacher Kelly, an Aide Jodi and another Aide Judy or Judi, correct? All three need to be terminated and barred from ever working with children again. No exceptions. JR~Kewanee, IL
puppydog999 April 28, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Fantastic idea. Then there are no questions-either way- as to the teacher's or the students side of the story. It will keep everyone honest and allow the principal as well as the parents to really see how well the teacher is applying his/her teaching skills and the students understanding of the subjects and behavior during the school day. They should be installed not only in Special Ed but in all classrooms. Many healthclubs have a video cam continuously running so that parents can remotely check-up on their children at any time (while they are in the daycare) and they are a positve asset - the ability to see your child at any time!
puppydog999 April 28, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Jodi S. lives in my neighborhood and is that way to adults and children without special needs. That is her. Her husband was just banned from coaching in Cherry Hill Atlantic Little League for Bullying too.
Linda Fos April 29, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Your Comment about your teachers in the 60's & 70's reminded me of something wonderful. My Grade 6 Teacher married the grade 8 Math Teacher from my school, and all of the students from her class that year were extended an invitation to attend the Church for the Marriage Ceremony. Always my favorite Teachers.
lynda lupo May 01, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Dear Mr. Stevenson, I appreciate all the time it must have taken to research the above information. Perhaps you did not consider 2 points: First the child is young therefore his parents are his legal gardians so the father consented to the taping. Secondly JUST BECAUSE A CHILD IS AUTISTIC IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT THEIR MENTAL CAPACITY IS IMPARED NOR THEIR I.Q LOW. In fact if you wish to do more research perhaps you should start with information about Autism, and as an aside Einstein was autistic. Thank You, From a Mother of a exceptional 'AUTISTIC' child Lynda Lupo
John Stevenson May 01, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Ms. Lupo: My comment was not meant to infer that an autistic child's IQ is any lower than that of a non-autistic child. I have an autistic child in my family and I know from experience that he is as bright and intelligent as anyone else. I was speaking from an age point of view. The law recognizes that child under certain ages are unable to give consent. My concern was how the court, if presented with the question would consider the Dad's legal status as the boys guardian, as he was not actually present during the conversation. I would hope that the court would see it your way, but with these courts these days who really knows. I am sorry if my comment offended you but it was unintended,


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