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Video Of L.I. Autistic Teen Being Silenced During School Board Meeting Goes Viral

BOE Officials Cite Privacy Laws For Stopping Speech

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NORTHPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A YouTube video of a 14-year-old autistic boy being silenced by a Long Island school board is going viral.

Northport High School freshman Christian Ranieri is seen in the video trying to deliver a speech Monday night to the Northport-East Northport Board of Education.

In the speech, which took him three hours to write, Ranieri talks about his struggles with autism and tries explaining to the board that he felt he was wrongfully disciplined and suspended from school because of his disability.

But Ranieri was stopped after a minute into his speech.

“This is inappropriate for a public session,” Board of Education President Stephen Waldenburg said. “Please be careful as to what you’re saying, it’s something that the board cannot entertain in public session.”

“This entire discussion which involves disciplinary action is totally improper for a public session,” Waldenburg added.

After Ranieri was silenced, his parents and a member of the audience objected.

Christian Ranieri (credit: Handout)

Christian Ranieri (credit: Handout)

“This is not a debate, he wants you to hear him,” his father said.

“Let him be heard,” a woman said.

Ranieri tried to continue, but was stopped again.

His mother said she tried to comfort her son after the incident.

“He teared a little bit in the hallway and then he said, ‘I am so angry, why wouldn’t they let me tell my story,'” his mother Carina Ranieri told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.

Ranieri’s parents wanted their son to be heard and posted the video online; it has been viewed more than 28,000 times on YouTube as of Thursday afternoon.

In a statement, Waldenburg applauded Ranieri for “having the courage to come forward” and “share his perspectives,” but cited privacy laws for halting the speech.

“Christian’s speech veered into a revelation of details regarding a pending disciplinary matter and individuals associated with it,” Waldenburg stated.

“I explained to Christian and those in attendance that under the law, student disciplinary matters are confidential. It was my conclusion, supported by our legal counsel at the table, that Christian’s revelation of this information was inappropriate because it potentially compromised the pending disciplinary matter and revealed personal protected information. As a result, I had to insist that he not provide any more information about it,” Waldenburg said.

Waldenburg concluded by stating the BOE supports the public’s voice, but is committed to protecting personal rights as defined by law.

The family also created a Facebook page following Ranieri’s journey of self-advocacy. The teen is a youth ambassador for the New York State Self-Advocacy Association.

The full text of the speech has been posted to the page.

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