Troubling footage has surfaced of a student with autism being brutally beaten to the ground at his Maryland school bus stop while his peers stood by to watch -- and catch the act on camera.
In the video, acquired by WMAR-TV, an unidentified student strikes 11-year-old Kaleb Kula in the head as other students cheer on.
"Yo, beat the sh-- out of him!" one student yells. The video was later uploaded to Facebook.
Kula has been a victim of bullying for years at Elkton Middle School, WMAR-TV reports, being verbally and physically abused by his peers. He tells the station that he just has "a bad reputation."
"At least kids that don't have special needs can defend themselves a little bit more," Kaleb's father James Kula said. "He's pretty much defenseless."
For the most part, the instance of student victimization in schools has fallen since 1995, according to a report by the National Center for Educational Statistics, but the problem persists. The proportion of students reporting criminal victimization at school fell to 4.3 percent of students aged 12 to 18 in 2005, from 9.5 percent in 1995. In the 2008-2009 school year, about 3.9 percent of students aged 12 to 18 reported being victims of a crime at school.
The Kulas said they had issued many requests for help from the school, to no avail. School officials say, however, they are following procedures in place to prevent bullying and protect students.
"I'm going to try to put this behind me, but then it's going to come running back in front of me and confront me again," Kaleb told WMAR-TV. "That's what I think will happen. It's like a ground hog trying to run from its shadow."
Elkton police have charged the boy who struck Kaleb in the video as a juvenile with second degree assault.
Kaleb's incident is just the latest in a series of assaults against students with autism. In 2009, Virginia school bus driver Alice Davis Holland and special education aide Mary Alice Evans were caught on surveillance hitting, kicking and choking Timothy Kilpatrick, a child with autism, on the school bus. Holland and Evans were convicted of criminal charges last fall.
In December, 9-year-old Christopher Baker, also a student with autism, was reportedly stuffed into a duffel bag by his educators as punishment for misbehavior. The bag was closed with the student, and his mother found him wiggling inside as a teacher's aide stood by.
Students who stand out for being "different" or who have unique attributes are often more likely to fall victim to school bullying. In a report by AAPI Nexus issued last fall, research showed that Asian American students are bullied in American schools much more than students belonging to any other ethnic group.
According to a survey by Onepoll and Youngpoll, the effects of bullying are having averse effects on even younger groups of students. About 44 percent of children surveyed between the ages of 11 and 13 said they had been bullied because of their weight, and more than 40 percent of kids younger than 10 admitted they were concerned about gaining weight -- with nearly one-fourth of the younger group reporting having been on a diet in the last year.
The psychological effects of bullying are pervasive. The suicides of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer from Buffalo, N.Y. and 10-year-old Ashlynn Conner from Vermilion County, Ill. are just two of dozens of reports illuminating the strife of young victimized students. Last year, 13-year-old Nicolette Taylor resorted to plastic surgery to escape harassment and name-calling, particularly on social networking sites such as Facebook.
Bullied students are shown to suffer academically as well. Research presented to the American Sociological Association last fall revealed that students who reported being bullied in the 10th grade saw a slight decrease in GPA by 12th grade. The change is even sharper for black and Latino students who tend to earn high marks.
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