Camden Davis’ mother was unsure of what to do when his behavior began to decline. Her attempts to find out what might be the cause by speaking with his school were unsuccessful.
When she made the decision to take matters into her own hands at that point, the results were disturbing.
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Milissa Davis, a married mother of two boys, resides. She enjoys her work and specializes in miniature horses as therapeutic animals. Her special needs 12-year-old son Camden, though, is what keeps her busiest.
He is the object of her passionate protectiveness, so when he began displaying indications of discomfort, she realized she had to take action.
Milissa felt so fortunate that Camden had been accepted to Greater Baton Rouge Hope Academy. It appeared to be the ideal institution for Camden.
Milissa believed that their problems would finally be resolved after a difficult run involving many schools and callous teachers and peers. She was completely unaware of the terrible consequences of her choice.
Hope Academy takes pride in providing for children with special needs and making sure they may learn at their own rate while still feeling comfortable and accepted.
According to the school’s mission statement, Hope Academy’s goal is to “address the particular needs of kids who generally have social and academic issues in normal school settings by teaching these students how to control and modify their own unique systems to lead healthy, happy lives.”
Milissa wept with happiness as she read the admittance letter. She gave thanks to God because, at last, Camden would be able to learn in a setting where he would feel comfortable.
She hoped the school would be able to provide him with the encouraging environment he needs to succeed academically. She would soon learn, though, that it was actually the exact opposite.
At first, everything appeared to be satisfactory. Camden was looking forward to the new surroundings. It was obvious that Camden was burnt out by the time his final year at his old school came to a close.
His peers weren’t any better, and the teachers were far worse. Camden struggled to make friends and spent the majority of his school days by himself.
In actuality, Camden was the one who suggested changing schools. Milissa would never forget the resolve and bravery displayed by that boy.
As the trimester was concluding, he approached her after school and said, “Mom, I think I want to change schools. I’m not happy with this one.”
Milissa would always be proud of her son for having the guts to say such. She knew her son wasn’t happy in that school.
After the children’s classes were done, she and her husband planned to ask him whether he wanted to switch schools. They had previously discussed the idea. She didn’t anticipate Camden to bring up the subject on his own, though.
So, after researching local special needs schools, a selection was reached in a short amount of time, and the family put out many applications.
They received the letter of admittance quickly after. The family as a whole was thrilled when it occurred. A few weeks later, when the course began, it appeared as if Camden had finally chosen a location. But things would soon take a depressing turn.
Everything appeared to be going well over the initial few months. There was no reason to anticipate what would happen because Camden was receiving outstanding grades and his teachers always seemed to be pleasant to Camden’s parents when they had seen them in a meeting.
But things started to alter shortly after the first trimester. At first, it was hardly evident, but Milissa had a gut feeling that something was seriously wrong.
At first, it started subtly; Camden seemed a bit moodier right after the Christmas break. For a minute, Milissa thought that maybe the kid was just annoyed about the end of the vacation.
However, things didn’t get any better as days passed. It came to a point where Milissa couldn’t ignore it anymore. But what exactly was going on?
A few months into the school year, Milissa began noticing stark changes in Camden’s behavior. He became more aggressive, his anxiety increased, and he even started wetting the bed — something he hadn’t done since he was 3 years old.
Now, there was no doubt: something was going very wrong. Would it have something to do with Camden’s new school?
Every time Milissa or her husband asked Camden what was wrong, they didn’t get a clear answer from the kid. As a matter of fact, they didn’t get an answer at all. Camden would just shut down.
This was something he usually did when he was feeling distressed or overwhelmed. His parents knew something was off, and they were resolved to get to the bottom of the issue.
Thinking Camden’s new school environment might have something to do with his behavioral change, Milissa went to Hope Academy to talk about her son’s situation.
She tried to speak to the principal and school officials about where Camden was seated in the classroom, among other things. But the school wasn’t cooperative at all. So Milissa decided to take matters into her own hands.
Milissa bought a tape recorder and put it in Camden’s backpack one day before school. She hoped that the device would record anything that was happening at the school that was out of the ordinary.
She knew it was an extreme measure, but given that her concerns had fallen on deaf ears at the school, she felt she had no choice. When Camden came back from school, Milissa couldn’t wait to hear what was on the tape.
Milissa took the recorder from Camden’s backpack and rewound it. She knew she’d have to listen to hours of audio, with the possibility that there was nothing of interest in the tape.
And, sure enough, the beginning of the recording showed the normal goings-on of a school day. But then she came upon some conversations that chilled her to the core.
On the tape, Camden’s teacher can be heard scolding him for not writing something he was assigned. This would be normal at a regular school, but special needs children don’t respond well to admonishment.
On top of that, the teacher’s tone was condescending, even mocking Camden’s attempts at verbalizing. In shock, Milissa continued to listen — and the worst was yet to come.
At one point, a conversation can be heard between the teacher and her teaching assistant. Even though no children appeared to be present, they were clearly in the classroom and close to Camden’s backpack.
They were talking derogatorily about Camden, even using swear words. When she first heard it, Milissa couldn’t believe what they were saying. She felt sick to her stomach.
“I just wanted to cry, scream and do everything I could because it was so bad,” Milissa said. “To think that I had sent my son there every day, and what had happened before that, I don’t know about.”
Armed with that damning evidence, Milissa once again went to school officials. And, once again, her concerns were dismissed. But she was determined not to be ignored.
Milissa immediately pulled Camden out of Hope Academy. But she didn’t want to leave the issue there, thinking of all the other special needs children being exposed to such unprofessional teachers.
But she had a plan. She did what she knew would get the school’s attention: she posted the audio on her Facebook page. Her plan worked.
The post went viral, forcing the school to take action. Principal Linda Stone released a statement, saying one of the teachers had been fired and the other would be let go once the semester ended.
The parent never brought the recording to the attention of Hope Academy before posting it on social media. The parent has also refused to meet with Hope Academy to discuss the actions we have taken to address the issue,” the statement said.
“The persons involved in the communications are either no longer with the school or will no longer be with the school after this semester,” principal Linda Stone stated.
“Over these many years, Hope Academy has built a strong reputation for competently serving the educational needs of the special needs community. These recordings are not an indication of who we are.” But was that true?
“We ask that the community not let the actions of two persons reflect on the reputation of and the mission of our school-a mission we have tried so hard to build.”
“We again extend an invitation to meet with the parent involved to discuss this incident further,” the statement concluded. But by then, Milissa had other ideas in mind. She was going to get her revenge.
Milissa hired the services of attorney Charlotte McGehee and planned to file a complaint with the Department of Education.
“No child should have to have this happen to them,” she told the media when asked about the case. “I brought this to light because I wanted my son to be the last kid that this happened to at this school.”
The pressure forced the school to fire the second teacher immediately, and everyone who had been following the story on the media and online celebrated it, showing Milissa and Camden love over social media.
Meanwhile, people online shared their opinions on the incident; and this revealed a disturbing trend.
“Unfortunately, this happens more often than you think,” one of the people who commented on the story said. “My son, who suffers from ASD, came with bruises all over him.”
“They claimed they just had to restrain him. He became non-verbal except for sweating that year. After the year with that teacher was over, he became verbal again, and he told us stories about different teachers telling him not to believe in God.”
“Teachers doing nothing all day but talking between themselves and complaining about the kids, work, etc…” she continues. And that’s not even the worst part of it.
“Teachers making fun of and smacking another student that had balance problems and would grab onto things and people to steady himself…” There were more people commenting on Milissa and Camden’s story, and this is what they said:
“There is something seriously wrong with some people who pass all the security checks and still abuse children!” said one mother.
“This infuriates me to no end. Would those monsters want someone to do anything like that to their children? I think not. I hope these teachers get punished severely. Hope this boy is OK. God bless him.”
Milissa was touched by the sentiments of support from all over the world and even opened a P.O. box so people could send letters and gifts to Camden.
But in the meantime, there was something else to do; finding a new school for the kid, making sure that this one would be the right one for him.
Milissa transferred Camden to a different school, making sure that the teachers were qualified and professional. Camden’s new teacher minored in psychology and has a degree in special education and Applied Behavior Analysis.
Even so, the effects of his former teachers’ bullying have not completely subsided. Hopefully, with time and lots of support, Camden can go back to being the sweet, loving kid he was before. In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.