As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 5,00 YouTube viewers have heard Christian Raneiri, a 14-year-old Northport student, after he was cut off while attempting to express what he felt was unfair treatment in his classroom due to his autism disability during a Board of Education meeting Monday.
Raneiri’s story has garnered the attention of thousands, many expressing their support for the teen, who said that he was trying to self-advocate for his rights, which include the correct implementation of his individualized education plan (IEP).
The school board president cited privacy laws in his reasoning for halting Ranieri's speech. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the confidentiality of a student’s education records.
“I feel rejected from being able to speak my mind to a group of people that I hoped would want to listen to me,” he said outside of the board meeting room after he was turned away.
Ranieri decided to speak at the board of education meeting after he and his family felt that his IEP and behavior intervention plan were not being utilized. After four weeks without the mandated materials, his parents called meetings with administrative staff members. When his behavior plan was put in place however, it was done incorrectly, Ranieri said, adding that he was refused when he asked to speak to his teacher outside of the classroom about the error. Out of frustration, he said that he raised his voice at the teacher and was suspended from school for two days for the outburst.
Since the incident was not written up in his mandated behavior sheet, and because privacy laws bar school staff members from discussing individual behavioral issues in public, it is unclear what took place that day from the teacher’s perspective.
School board president Stephen Waldenburg stopped Raneri’s speech, citing privacy laws.
"I understand your situation, son," Waldenburg said to Ranieri. "But, you have to understand that we are legally limited in what we can discuss in a public session. You are not giving the superintendent an opportunity to discuss a private, personal matter, that should only be discussed not in public session."