AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) - Cellphone footage taken of a severely disabled 15-year-old boy has led his mother to pull him out of his Colorado middle school.
The video taken by a special education teacher at Laredo Middle School in Aurora shows Silas Padilla having a meltdown in his classroom, crying and shaking his head.
"The most upsetting thing behind it is my son was crying because she (the teacher) took his wheelchair from him," said mother Sabrina Padilla. She agreed to share the video with KDVR after demanding the principal at Laredo Middle School provide her with a copy of the footage that was taken without her permission.
In the video, Silas can be seen kneeling in front of his walker. His mother says he prefers to use a motorized wheelchair.
"They said all year it’s been a struggle with his wheelchair. They told me he couldn’t bring it, that he couldn’t use it. And I told them absolutely not. Those are his legs. If that’s what he wants to use, then that’s what he’s going to want to use. I thought I made myself very clear, but I was disregarded," said Sabrina Padilla.
Silas was born with a chromosome defect. As a result, he is non-verbal and can't walk on his own. Sabrina says he has the academic skills of a 4- or 5-year-old child, but because of his age, he's enrolled as an eighth-grader in the special education program at Laredo Middle School.
Sabrina Padilla was told of the video's existence by a district employee. The whistleblower agreed to talk to KDVR under condition of anonymity.
The staff member said it appeared the video was taken and then shared with a teacher at Smoky Hill High School to warn teachers they would be inheriting a problem child next year, when Silas will be a ninth-grader.
"She recorded Silas upset and then shared it to demolish his high school reputation," said Sabrina Padilla.
The Cherry Creek School District denies there was any malicious intent behind the cellphone footage. A district spokeswoman provided the following statement:
"Information was shared between teachers as part of a transition meeting. The goal of these meetings is to ensure the successful transition of a student from middle to high school. The purpose of sharing information about students rising to high school is to ensure that teachers can meet the needs of the students they will be serving."
District spokeswoman Abbe Smith said the teacher who took the cellphone footage and shared it without the mother's permission is not on leave but the district is continuing to look into the matter.
The anonymous staff member who alerted Sabrina disputed the district's official version of events, insisting the video was not shared as part of a transition meeting pertaining to any students, let alone Silas.
Instead, the whistleblower said the video was shared during a teacher training and the whistleblower found the video to be inappropriate.
Sabrina is convinced the video served no educational purpose and was only shared to undermine her son and the perception high school teachers might have about him.
"You take his wheelchair away from him and you knew he wanted it. So you purposefully made him upset and then recorded him. It's bullying. You know, how are we supposed to teach our kids not to bully if our teachers are being bullies? And then she uses the footage to show a teacher, saying he's a horrible kid when she bullied him into crying that day," said Sabrina Padilla.
She said she pulled her son out of Laredo Middle School on Feb. 10, when she learned of the video's existence. She is currently trying to find a new school for him.