Joint statement on abuse of Roncalli student with Down syndrome

“No voice is too soft when that voice speaks for others.” ― Janna Cachola

As advocates for people with intellectual disabilities, we were deeply disturbed to learn of the abuse of a young man with Down syndrome by fellow students at Roncalli High School (Indianapolis, IN).

First, we would like to express our support for the young man and his family. The National Down Syndrome Society, Down Syndrome Indiana and The Arc of Indiana are very tight-knit communities with passionate advocates for inclusion and acceptance.  It is appalling that in this day in age that just because someone looks or acts differently that this can be seen as an invitation to bully, taunt, and even assault a fellow human being.  We will never back away from fighting for inclusion and basic human rights for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including Down syndrome. It is moments like this in which we realize our work is never done and we still have so far to go in the disability movement.

We want to especially thank the individuals who notified Jack’s mother, Lesli Woodruff, regarding the abuse that took place. Without those individuals, the terrible incidents that took place may never have been revealed. In fact, we would like to express appreciation for all those who protect individuals who are least able to protect themselves.

As advocates, parents, caregivers and a disability community we know inclusion and acceptance works in environments where these actions are not tolerated. Even more, in Indiana and across our country,  we encourage all citizens to speak up when they see any type of verbal or physical abuse, whether it be at school or in the community at large. In our schools and in our society, each and every individual must be respected and afforded equal rights.

Many people heard about the incident and thought “how horrible!” And it certainly is.  Now, we want people to pause and think, “What am I doing to insure my child knows they should embrace differences rather than ridicule or bully?” And, if you have a child with a disability, what steps can be taken at school and at home to help your child learn ways to protect themselves and how to be empowered to report abuse. If you need resources in having these conversations, please reach out to us.  We are here to help.

Please let’s all resolve to be courageous and bold and speak up, if we do not, things will not change.


Link to IndyStar Article: Roncalli football players abused and threatened boy with Down syndrome, mom says


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Men with disabilities are two times as likely as those without disabilities to experience sexual violence, yet few people know just how common it is or how to help. It’s time to change that. The Arc of the United States has new training guides, videos, and other resources to address this silent epidemic.

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