Jane is 18 years old and a junior in high school. Her mother describes her as bright and expressive with a fantastic sense of humor and a passion for music and a routine.
She also has severe cerebral palsy and a family that adores her. And she’s the girl in the background of a shaming video that a Mooresville High School special-needs teacher posted to Instagram earlier this week.
The video – and immediate backlash to it on social media – led to the teacher’s suspension on Thursday and her resignation this morning, two days after she posted the video.
Jane’s mom reached out to the Scoop this morning, wishing to paint a picture of her daughter and all she’s been through. Her daughter’s name isn’t actually Jane, but her mom asked that names be withheld to protect her daughter’s identity as much as possible.
“She’s not some abstract person in the background,” Jane’s mom said. “She is not this person in the corner who just overreacted. She’s a person with feelings.
“I don’t want her to be the secondary part of this story. I want her to be the head of it.”
She said she also doesn’t want to see a smear campaign against Jane’s teacher who posted the video. “I don’t want to demonize the teacher – I loved her and thought she was a great teacher – but I don’t want to condone this, either,” she said. “She’s a kid, and she made a poor decision. I don’t want her to lose her teaching license, but I want her to learn humility, and I want her to learn consequences.”
But most of all, Jane’s mom said, “I want people to know the person she did this to. And I want to bring light to what bullying is.”
Jane was born in New York just a couple weeks before the 9/11 attacks. Her birthday is Aug. 24, but she wasn’t due to be born for another 15 weeks. She weighed one pound, six ounces at birth and depended on life support her first three months of life.
A quadriplegic, she endured major hip reconstruction when she was seven or eight years old, her mom said. A year ago, she had a full spinal fusion, with surgeons cutting her from neck-to-bottom, breaking her spine to insert a rod. She has suffered complications from screws in her body and worn a full-body cast three different times in her life. She has spasms when she’s carried and underwent a partial hysterectomy at 15 years old, which is when doctors discovered her endometriosis.
“But she is bright, and she is brilliant,” her mom said. “She is lovely, and she is funny. She has been through a lot, but she is so amazing.”
On Wednesday, however – on a day when Jane’s mom said she clearly was having an “off” morning – a teacher publicly ridiculed Jane as an “unruly” student who ruined a trip to the park and a pizza lunch.
In the video, the teacher – a recent nominee for MGSD’s 2019 Beginning Teacher of the Year award – is in the foreground while Jane appears in the background in her wheelchair. A bubble with the word “ugh” masks Jane’s face. Often wearing a smug look, the teacher mocks Jane, blaming her behavior on the bus for causing them both to miss the field trip with other class members.
“Her unruly behavior was literally just to get out of the field trip,” the teacher said. “And now we both get to sit here and stare at each other for the next three hours while the class is gone, so … happy freaking Wednesday.”
She added in text at the end of the video: “Also didn’t pack a lunch today because I thought I’d be eating pizza with the CLASS. Send food, send patience.”
The video was shared on the Scoop’s Facebook page yesterday and was met with a firestorm of comments, mostly from outraged parents.
“I know that my daughter isn’t perfect; I know she’s had moments,” Jane’s mom said. “But for the most part, she’s a very happy kid. She had to sit there and listen to that. She is non-verbal, but she is here and aware. She would have at least understood the feeling of things not being right. And this is so not okay because my kid can’t come home and tell me something happened.”
She said she doesn’t know who to trust right now, especially because the video revealed that a teacher’s aid lied to her about the field trip. “I was told at the end of the day, when I picked her up, about her trouble getting on the bus,” Jane’s mom said. “The teacher’s aid told me that the whole class – which has a lot of different disabilities – stayed back from going to the park and had cupcakes, and they’d try again in October.”
But the video told a different story. “In the video, the teacher says the class left and she and my daughter would be staring at each other for three hours. Had she not posted that video, I wouldn’t have known the truth.”
The aid later admitted she lied.
“I don’t dislike her,” Jane’s mom said. “She probably got scared and just followed through with what she was told. But if they lied about this, what else have they lied about?”
Jane had an “off” night on Wednesday after the incident at school. “I attributed it to other things,” her mom said. The school principal called her that evening to tell her what happened – and about the video.
She said she doesn’t blame the school district; in fact, she praises it and its Exceptional Children program, which integrates special-needs children with the general population of students. “My daughter has been in the school district her entire life,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the school district; the principal was heartbroken, and I’m going to keep my daughter in.”
She said she’s also working with the district on ways to move forward and rebuild trust. In a meeting with the MHS principal this morning, Jane’s mom said she requested a meeting in which all parents of EC students can attend and ask questions.
It was during that meeting she was told the teacher had resigned.
Jane’s mom wants to move forward but in a way that ensures what happened to her daughter doesn’t happen to another student. “It is what it is; there is no taking it back,” she said. “I believe people deserve second chances – not with me … not right now – but I don’t want more from this than has already happened.
“My kid has been through enough.”
Shortly after the video was shared on the Scoop’s Facebook page, Tanae Sump-McLean, MGSD’s chief communications officer, reached out in an email. “We want to assure our parents, as well as the community, that we hold our teachers to the highest professional standards when it comes to their actions and the treatment of our students,” she wrote. “We do not and would never condone actions like what has occurred with the posting of this video.”
Following the teacher’s resignation this morning, Sump-McLean noted the school district cannot lawfully comment on specific personnel matters. “However,” she said, “it is important for parents and the community to understand that anytime a question arises regarding the conduct of a school employee specific to their job, the superintendent and school administrators work diligently to ensure the best possible outcome for our students.”