Two teachers at a Georgia middle school will not be returning to work after reportedly giving an “insensitive” award to a student, officials said.
The incident occurred at a ceremony last week for eighth-graders at Memorial Middle School in Conyers, about 25 miles southeast of Atlanta.
There, the teachers presented a student who has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder a trophy inscribed with “MOST LIKELY TO ‘NOT PAY ATTENTION,’” the student’s mother told Fox 5 News.
Nicole Edwards said she was angry and hurt when her 14-year-old daughter brought the award home.
“I feel like it was very derogatory. I feel like it was humiliating,” she told the news station. She added, “My first thought was, I wanted to know how my child felt when she walked across that stage and got that award. I became furious.”
Edwards added that the school had called in the past to report problems with her daughter not being able to pay attention in class.
“Why call me to discipline her, but yet you turn around and give her an award for it?” Edwards told Fox 5. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Representatives for Rockdale County Public Schools, a K-12 system that enrolls more than 16,500 students, did not respond to emailed questions Sunday.
District Superintendent Richard Autry told the Rockdale Citizen on Friday that the two teachers would not be returning to the district the following academic year.
“We take these matters seriously and will always act swiftly and appropriately to them,” Autry told the newspaper. He said he could not comment on “personnel matters” and declined to elaborate on whether the teachers had been dismissed.
The “spirit week” ceremony at Memorial Middle School had been intended to be modeled after the Grammy Awards, district spokeswoman Cindy Ball told the Citizen.
Ball acknowledged in a statement to WSB-TV Atlanta that the ceremony had included “insensitive award categories.”
“RCPS will neither condone nor tolerate any activities or insensitive behavior that may cause,” she told the station.
ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental childhood disorders and can persist into adulthood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Signs and symptoms include having trouble paying attention, acting impulsively or being overly active. As of 2011, about 11 percent of children between ages 4 and 17 had been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the CDC.
“It is normal for children to have trouble focusing and behaving at one time or another,” the CDC states on its website. “However, children with ADHD do not just grow out of these behaviors. The symptoms continue and can cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends.”
The nonprofit group CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) suggests a number of accommodations that teachers can make for students with ADHD, including seating them in a part of the classroom with fewer disruptions, limiting repetitive assignments and pairing them with positive role models who can help them stay on task.
“This will also ensure that the accommodations are seen as support instead of punishment,” the group states. “Teachers, parents, and students should partner together to address needs and supports.”
Edwards, the mother of the eighth-grader who was singled out for her ADHD during the awards ceremony, told WSB-TV she appreciated the superintendent’s swift action and concern.
“My goal is to make sure that this horrible event never happens to another kid again,” she said, according to the station. “As a parent, it is my job to protect my child from being humiliated and bullied, especially when the bully is her teacher. Making fun of any disability is not acceptable.”