Jay Davis, who was a Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) paraprofessional, posted a viral video claiming that he was expected to teach a classroom of specially educated students despite not having the qualifications or training to do so.
A paraprofessional, also known as a teaching assistant, is someone who is trained to work with students in schools. According to Indeed, these are “educational workers who are not licensed to teach.” They support students under the leadership of a teacher.
His TikTok Video Went Viral
The paraprofessional, Jay, reported that this was the second day he had to be a substitute teacher.
“They knew that the teacher was not going to be here today,” he explained in the video. “They still didn’t get a sub because they know they can rely on us.”
He also highlighted the fact that these students couldn’t tell their parents or guardians if there was no teacher present because they were nonverbal.
“They can’t tell their parents if they don’t have a teacher, so they get away with it,” he stated.
He argued that this was illegal since schools receiving federal funding are required to provide these students with specialized support and teachers who can meet their needs.
Davis believes this is a widespread issue, noting that special education teachers are “ready to quit” in every school he has been contracted to attend, and there is a lack of support for students. The individual educational plans (IEPs), which students with disabilities require, were not being met.
In his viral video, Davis criticized schools such as his own for not providing students with the special education teacher they need and called it a “human rights violation.”
@jabcd._ Please share this message, more people need to know #TUSD #tucson #kids #teacher #specialeducation ♬ original sound – jay
The video has almost 3 million views and more than 16,000 comments since it was first posted on March 15.
Social Media Users Were Aghast
“That’s also an IEP violation for each kid,” one person commented on the video. “The parents can sue the F out of the school, which means less funding for the school district.”
Yup, and you still get paid a fraction of what they pay the teachers. Another crucial position with no recognition,” another person added.
“It’s bad everywhere,” one admitted. “If you’re a parent and think, ‘Oh, not my kids’ school,’ you are very wrong! It is happening at your school too.”
He Reported That He Got Fired
Sadly, soon after he posted his video online, Davis reported he got fired and faced eviction, supposedly due to speaking out, which he affirms in another TikTok video.
@jabcd._ #stitch with @jabcd._ ♬ original sound
“They fired me, lied about me on my record, and now I’m getting evicted,” he stated. “Because I stood up and I said this is illegal, you need to look into this. This is what happens; this is why nothing changes.”
Social Media Users Wanted to Support Him
The comments section of the video was flooded with support for the paraprofessional as they asked how they could help him.
“Take it to court. I did when I was wrongfully terminated. I won,” one person said.
“Wrongful termination for whistleblowers. Get a lawyer and contact the ACLU,” another stated.
Many people praised him for his efforts. “Thank you for standing up and being honest!” one wrote, “My son is nonverbal and has a very specific IEP. I always worry about things like this.”
Many of the commenters agreed to help Jay and crowdfund him. Jay started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for his utility bills, rent, and upcoming legal fees.
The GoFundMe page has since been removed, with Jay thanking his supporters for helping him to raise enough money to pay off his debts and rent for the month.
TUSD Spoke Out Against The TikTok Video
TUSD denied the claims made by Davis in the video.
“TUSD does not assign paraprofessionals to cover classes without the support of a teacher. We assign other certified staff on that campus, central Ex Ed certified staff, or a contract teacher to cover absences,” Sabrina Salmon, senior director of Exceptional Education for the district, told Arizona Daily Star.
Salmon stated that Roberts Naylor K-8 School had two special education classes. When one of the teachers was absent, the principal combined both classes and had a certified teacher oversee them with support from paraprofessionals such as Davis.
She confirmed that Davis had been employed as a contractor but was no longer with the company due to inaccuracies found in his application process.
Gabriel Trujillo, TUSD Superintendant, denied the claims that a special education teacher must be present in class if the school receives federal funding.
“Whether a school receives federal funding or not has nothing to do with the school’s legal obligation to fulfill the requirements of a special education student’s IEP,” she said.
This is not the first time Tucson Unified School District has garnered attention due to its staffing shortages.
At the start of the 2022 school year, TUSD was facing a major staffing crisis since they were short 25 math teachers and 50 special-education teachers. Furthermore, they were missing over 300 substitute teachers in comparison to pre-pandemic numbers.
This article Paraprofessional Exposes School For Not Providing Special Education Teachers and Gets Fired Soon After was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching.
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Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.