NEW BEDFORD — The mother of an autistic New Bedford middle school student is furious over the end-of-the-year certificate five teachers decided to award to her son as he finished sixth grade.

Desiree Perez said teachers at Normandin Middle School presented her son, Kelvin Riveira, with award declaring him "Most Likely to Get Lost in a Crowd."

"This is a type of bullying by the teachers," she said.

Perez said she went to Normandin after receiving a message from Kelvin's teacher, Ms. Alves, that she needed to come in and pick up some paperwork for Kelvin, including his report card. She said she picked up the paperwork from the office and went to her car before thumbing through it all.

"I was looking at his report card, which was good, he got all As, Bs, and Cs," she said. "But when I look at the end of the paperwork, I find a (certificate) that says, 'Most Likely to Get Lost in a Crowd.' That's his award for the whole year. Everything he did all year, and that's what he got."

Perez said she was furious, not only because of the award itself but because the teachers who signed it know about his struggles throughout the school year.

"I've been to that school fighting for his life," she said. "I've been denying the (Individual Education Plan) because they don't want to put the correct things in there for his autism condition. I've been fighting for that with the IEP worker and a family advocate."

She said there have also been three instances in which her son was bullied by other students, and that the school was aware of them. According to Perez, the perpetrators never were suspended for their actions.

"And now all of a sudden my son receives this award, saying he's always lost in a crowd, and that's not right," she said. "They shouldn't give an award like that to any kid. They should only give positive awards. These kids struggle every day with what they have to go through."

Perez said it has been especially hard for her raising Kelvin.

"He struggled a lot," she said. "He didn't even talk until he was seven years old. He's been through a lot, and people don't get that. They don't get what he's gone through and what I've gone through."

Perez said she was thankful that Kelvin didn't understand the message she believes the certificate conveyed.

"When he read it, the first thing he said was, 'But Mom, I never get lost,'" she said. "That's how innocent these kids are. He doesn't get what they were saying about him."

Perez's calls to Normandin went unanswered. She said she has emailed Superintendent Thomas Anderson and Mayor Jon Mitchell, but hasn't heard back yet.

"I asked them (in the email) why they would give something like that," Perez said. "I asked for them to see that he gets an award that says something about his strengths, not about stuff like this. And that these teachers should be notified that they shouldn't be giving things like this to the kids."

Arthur Motta, spokesman for New Bedford Public Schools, told WBSM that Superintendent Thomas Anderson is aware of the complaint and that an investigation is underway. We will update this story with more information as it becomes available.

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