Father of autistic boy speaks out about viral video

Published: Nov. 17, 2016 at 7:31 PM EST
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The father of an autistic boy, who in a viral video had a microphone taken from him by a teacher during a first grade play, is speaking out.

"He never, ever goes without laughing or saying 'I love you mommy and daddy,'" Kent Squires said, describing his six-year-old son Caleb, who attends Nutter Fort Primary School.

So Squires was heartbroken to see his son, who has high functioning autism, in tears, moments after the teacher in question takes the microphone off the stage.

"For them to do what they did is very appalling to me," he said.

Squires says that in the video, taken by the boy's mother, their son was about to deliver his favorite lines 'Gobble, Gobble.'

"But there's no way to defend it, okay," Dr. Mark Manchin, Superintendent of Harrison County Schools, said. "We saw it, I saw it, the 17 second snippet...there's no way to defend it"

Dr. Manchin insists there was no malicious intent and that the teacher feels horrible about the incident. But he says the school never received a permission slip from the boy's parents and that the play had already ended. Squires disputes that.

"And it's a play, they're first and second graders, and I do not see the harm in letting that child say what he felt was very important," said Robyn Viglianco, an employee at The Arc of Harrison County.

At The Arc, Viglianco works with people who have developmental disabilities. She left a comment on the video, pledging her support.

"The child's parents were there," Viglianco remarked. "If she's acting that way in front of them, what is she doing behind closed doors?"

Squires says this isn't the first time he's had a falling out with the school. He recalled faculty coming up to him with complaints about his son every day after kindergarten last year.

"And [the principal's] like 'well, I just need to tell you your kid, Caleb, was acting out today,' right in the middle of all the parents," Squires recalled one incident.

He has since resolved that issue with Dr. Manchin, but the school is now under fresh scrutiny, with the video drawing national attention, having resonated with thousands.

"Me being disabled, I thank God it never happened to me," said Zeke Lane, a Shinnston resident who is blind. "I said 'I can only imagine if it did, what kind of heartbreak I would be going through and stuff like that.'"

As for the teacher in question, Dr. Manchin says she will not be disciplined. You can check out more of 5 News' Mike Valente's interview with Squires above this article.