Group speaks to school board about autism

KIMT News 3

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ROCHESTER, MN — You may remember surveillance video showing a Rochester school district employee using some apparently rough handling of a student with autism.

The video caused an outcry from the child’s mother and the community.

That worker was moved to a maintenance position in the district but that is not good enough for the child’s mom and supporters.

They are trying to turn the incident into something positive.

After over a month of planning the day has finally come. Snow may have held them up last time but rain did not stop them this time.

“This is great. Even with the bad weather, everyone came out to support and it just goes to show you how close to home autism hits for a lot of people,” said Melanie Flaherty of Rochester.

Flaherty and many others filled the Rochester Public Schools district building Tuesday night. They wanted to inform the school board of something that bothers them.

“We want to make the school board aware that there are concerned citizens and we are not about to just sit back and have things like this happen in our community and not say anything,” Flaherty said.

They are there to speak out, but also show their support for someone impacted directly.

Jade Werth’s son Austin was seen in multiple school district surveillance videos being pushed around by the person helping him.

She is happy to see the support from the community.

“We all have that commonality, we want change, we want to see change. I mean, obviously I have a lot of friends and family but nonetheless I think people want to see changes made within the schools,” Werth said.

She has a couple of things she wants to see done, but she puts one on the top of her priority list.

“Mandated reporting is a big issue. I didn’t find out until six days after the fact and again it wasn’t through the school it was through the Minnesota Department of Education,” Werth said.

Overall, those in attendance are there to be a voice for kids like Austin, who cannot speak for himself.

“All the kids in the community deserve the same chance at an education and at life in general,” Flaherty said, “We do not feel like Austin received that at Century and changes need to be made.”

While Austin may not be able to speak for himself, the people talking inside the building are hoping they can get his point across.

Flaherty has started a project to start a public charter school in Rochester that will specialize in helping kids with autism. She is calling it “Rochester Beacon Academy.”

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