Alex Hernandez, who has been deaf since he was a year old, was forced to develop a thick skin at a young age. But what happened on Wednesday, August 31, was too much for the student at Burke High School in Omaha, Nebraska. During lunch period, Hernandez left his backpack on a chair. Moments later, the senior returned to discover his belongings had been stolen, local TV station KMTV reported.
The 16-year-old’s bag, as well as his school supplies, tablet, homework, debit card and a battery for his cochlear implant, were later found stuffed into a toilet on campus.
With the help of surveillance video, administrators were able to identify the two boys who took Hernandez’s backpack. One was suspended, and the other is under investigation, KMTV reported.
“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,” Hernandez told KMTV. “Or anyone, for that matter.”
He was most distraught about his ruined English assignment. “I am very upset because I know I worked really hard on my project and homework,” he told the station. “I just want my mom to be happy and know that I did a good job on my homework.”
Principal Steven Scraggs believes that Hernandez wasn’t singled out because of his disability. “The students who stole the backpack were unaware of the contents of the backpack or that the owner of the backpack was hard of hearing,” Scraggs wrote in a letter to Burke High School parents that was obtained by the Omaha World-Herald. “The backpack was the target, not the student.”
Hernandez’s story, which went viral after airing on KMTV, has prompted an outpouring of support from people across the country. “I [want] to thank all my friends and those who wrote me … I am very happy,” he told KMTV. “It made me feel like I am not alone.”
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