OMAHA, Neb. — A deaf Nebraska student is speaking out after a heartbreaking photo spread on social media showing the boy’s belongings dumped into a toilet, allegedly by his classmates.
The bullying incident has sparked an investigation at the Omaha high school and the story is gaining national attention, according to a local television station.
Surveillance video showed two males walking off with Alex Hernandez’s backpack during lunch period last Wednesday at Burke High School, KMTV in Omaha reported.
The backpack contained his school supplies, including a tablet computer and homework, as well as his debit card and cochlear implant, which he needs in order to hear, according to the station.
Alex reported the belongings missing before they were later discovered in the bathroom.
“Those students think it’s OK to bully a deaf student, but it’s not. It’s not OK to bully someone who is disabled, deaf or hard of hearing,” he told the TV station. “Or anyone for that matter.”
A photo showing his backpack in the toilet was widely circulated on various social media outlets, including Facebook, sparking outrage and anger among students, KMTV reported.
“I actually saw it on Facebook, and it just absolutely sickened me,” said student Devon Fuller. “I can’t believe people at school would actually do that kind of thing.”
Alex, who has been deaf since the age of 1, told KMTV that he has been bullied for years. He added that he no longer feels safe at the campus and is considering transferring to a different school.
The two males, who were later identified, claimed to not know Alex was deaf, according to his mother. She told the station that one of the students was suspended, and the other was being investigated.
Alex said he didn’t know either of the students, but would like to speak with them.
“I just want to talk to them; I don’t want to fight them,” he told the television station. “I want to talk it out. And talk to their parents about them so they can tell them they need to teach them the right thing to do.”
Alex’s mother is planning to file a police report over the incident, KMTV reported on Tuesday.
“It’s not fair that the bullies think they can continue with this behavior,” she said. “They need to be reminded that there are consequences to stealing and bullying.”
In a statement released to KMTV, Omaha Public Schools acknowledged the incident at Burke High School.
“We take these kind of situations very seriously,” the statement read. “Due to student privacy laws, we are unable to provide specific details regarding the situation, but we do want to assure you that we are working with all parties involved. The situation was an isolated incident. OPS strives to provide a safe learning environment for all students.”
Students and the community have rallied around Hernandez, starting a GoFundMe page to raise money to pay for new school supplies for the teen. The page reached its stated fundraising goal of $800 within four days.