Special Action Alert

An update to this story is posted here, in Ms. Tonya Tanner’s own words.  Tonya is Rickie Lee Tanner’s wife and the mother of the child at the center of this case.

The International Coalition for Autism and All Abilities (ICAA) publishes special action alerts whenever there is a case of abuse, discrimination, or other issue of note in the autism and disabilities community. We encourage others to post these alerts to our ICAA Action Alerts tab here on the site as an additional resource.

Sadly, today there is a new Action Alert to report and it is close to home. Popular singer, and ICAA friend, Rickie Lee Tanner has shared the following statement with the community today.

There is no hope for the human race when a large group of kids set out to hurt and humiliate another child that is mentally challenged while the peers and adults around them know about it and they choose to stand by and do nothing. My heart and spirit are broken today.

My mentally challenged teenage daughter was nominated for homecoming court as a joke by her peers. The kids found out that her only friend is her pet duck so they thought it would be funny to throw duck eggs at her in the parade and make quacking noises at her at the ceremony. Even the students and adults that didn’t participate knew this was happening and never said a word. If you think that homecoming should be canceled at this school this year please send an email to the principal  at tsauvage@mvr3.k12.mo.us or call: (636) 271-1414

Rickie Lee Tanner, proud dad, advocate, and rising star in the music industry, has been a good friend to the ICAA and our efforts over the years. You can learn more about Rickie Lee Tanner at his Facebook page, his website, and by listening to his ICAA Radio appearance.  Rickie Lee Tanner was one of our special guests at the first ICAA Evening Out Rickie Lee and his family have generously volunteered time and talents over several years to autism and special needs efforts.
We hope that with your help, we can send a message that abuse, and discrimination against any child, or anyone else based on their differences, is unacceptable. Let’s send the message that “we’re not going to take it anymore.”
We stand with the Tanners as they face down this abuse.

The school district is Meramec Valley R-3 in Missouri.  The Principal is Mr. Tom Sauvage.
The School Board members are Mr. Tim Richardson, Mr. Mike Wells, Mr. Randy George, Ms. Doreen Hendrix, Ms. Joel Cracchiolo, Ms. Janet Hubbard, and Ms. Vicky Walz. The Superintendent of Schools is Mr. Randy George and his information is:
Fax: 636-271-1406
E-mail: rgeorge@mvr3.k12.mo.us

We encourage all parents, advocates and all ICAA members to engage in productive dialogue when addressing concerns.

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21 Responses to Special Action Alert

  1. Carol says:

    I would like you to know that this is untrue, Rickie Lee’s daughter is not autistic or mentally challenged. She only has ADHD, and is very well liked in school, and has a boyfriend of 2 years. Mr. Tanner posted his daughter was mentally challenged and her only friend was a duck, and then deleted the post. I live in this town, my child goes to that school, and most talk of the town is Mr. Tanner did this to try to further his career. I ask that you take a look at some of the facts. The way the nomination process works, is they nominate by clubs, as in this case it was band. Every band students name was on the list, then the members of the band, then select a male & female representative. She was chosen because band students wanted someone different. Then she got enough votes to put her on the ballet, then in turn the entire school voted to elect her to the sophomore court. She was NOT homecoming queen. There has been a full investigation of Facebook & no one mentioned anything about it, except for the father. Mr. Tanner will not turn over evidence of emails that he said he has. This is terrible.

    • lana b. martin says:

      Carol, you haven’t offered any proof that this issue isn’t true! What ax do you have to grind? Is your job at stake or something? I know people in ICAA and I know the Tanners family. I know the Tanners had offers from famous attorneys and media people on this and they decided to just try to quietly work within the school. You’re either a disgruntled staff who has a guilty heart or another guilty party. But you’re not doing anything to help the situation by trashing the girl’s family.

  2. monica says:

    perfect example of what schools have become today. and the new generation of kids is shameful. everyone thought this generation would be more tolerant and accepting. guess all the lectures about respecting difference didn’t sink in.

  3. teeny says:

    To Morgan: I hope you do stand up for your fellow student. Not just this girl, but any down the road who may not get this much attention. The word bullying usually means abuse, whether verbal or physical, harassment, and sometimes worse. Adults who bully actually get put in jail or get sued. There is never anything special about going along with a crowd. But being a leader and being strong enough to stand up to a crowd is what makes people great. Whatever you may have done or not done before, you can start now and be a blessing and not a curse to the world. Everyone here will support you and stand with you as you do the right thing.

    • Morgan says:

      I have tried to speak to the principal this morning and wrote my name down to speak to him about it, but they have yet to get me out of class. I am standing up and doing what I think is right. I messaged her on Facebook and told her I was a victim of bullying too, and I won’t let anything else happen as far as I can stop it and if anyone else says something, she can talk to me about. It’s a shame how these sophomores were raised. Even if they weren’t raised like that, the pressure the fall under to be like their peers.

    • L.David Elmer says:

      To Morgan: Good for you for at least trying to stick your neck out for Mr. Tanner’s daughter. You ought to take the further step of reaching out to Mr. Tanner and his wife directly so that they know what you did.

    • Morgan says:

      I talked to the principal and successfully got two of the four students I mentioned suspended and I would like to, but I’m sure they have more important things in their hands. I just need the self satisfaction that what I did was right, because I know it was, I think personal recognition is just a bonus.

    • L.David Elmer says:

      Morgan: It’s ultimately your decision, but I think they ought to know that their daughter does have at least one friend, especially since it sounds like local outrage over the situation is rather thin on the ground, as is the support for their daughter. Even if you don’t want to talk to them directly, see if you can’t drum up some support amongst your friends and make sure their daughter has a fan club at the parade and other activities.

  4. Jan says:

    My husband and I first read about Rickie Lee’s daughter through facebook. I also saw the story on the news yesterday evening. It angers me to tears for this child to be treated with such hate and disrespect. I question the upbringing of these bullies and I question the adults that “suspected” that something was not quite right but refused to check into what was going on with the nomination. Shame on the bullies and shame on the adults that have kept it quiet. Also, to the parents raising children that choose to be a part of this horrible prank…..you have failed raising your children and you certainly have nothing to be proud of! Whether homecoming is allowed to happen or not, this homecoming will always be overshadowed by this act of hatred towards this child! Also, I think the officials for the school have a lot of explaining to do. This is unacceptable behavior!

  5. Nancy Natsch says:

    This display of insensitivity is abhorrent! An ‘overwhelming’ number of students in this sophomore class voted for this young lady to be part of the Homecoming court. In an ideal world, this would have been a beautiful gesture by her peers.
    Personally, I would like to see one of two things happen with regard to the Homecoming. #1 IF these students were so genuine with their intent to make this young lady part of the Homecoming Court and festivities, I believe the school district should ask the parents to allow her to participate because they want her included as she was “elected” and then the district needs to insure that ALL festivities which involve the Homecoming Court be monitored by Security and Police Officers to insure the safety of this young lady. #2 The Sophomore class need to be suspended from participating in the Homecoming Activities for the year.
    Either way, it would be very important to further educate these students to learn to appreciate and value each life, regardless of another person’s differences or adversities. Some of the adults could learn to be more sensitive as well. Our differences are unique treasures!

  6. Morgan says:

    I am a senior student at this high school. I can say it’s quite terrible, especially when it was many students of the sophomore class that created a terrible name for the school. I recently had two teammates speak up and told me who had started and persuaded the voting as a prank. I finally got them to agree to list off the harassing students to the principal tomorrow. I grew up being bullied because I have terrible hearing, 95% loss in one and 85% in another, but I can’t even imagine what it’s like for her. Whether it turns out good or bad, I feel what I’m doing tomorrow morning is for the best.

    • Heather says:

      Morgan….thank you. I am very proud of you dear. Being bullied for any reason is horrible! If your plan is to help the school district protect what was about to happen, then you are taking the higher road. You are a strong young person and I thank you for standing up for what is right!! God Bless you…and thanks!

  7. ICAA says:

    Update: Rickie Lee Tanner and his family are meeting with school officials and will be letting everyone know what the outcome is. So far, we do not know what action will be taken regarding this abuse. ICAA will be keeping a close watch on the situation. Meanwhile, we have learned that there are still homecoming activities listed on the school district website from late this month until early October. Also, a school board meeting is listed for October 17th. Many advocates have asked us about attending a school board meeting. The district website will have more information about coming events on their calendar. Please feel free to contact us with any questions and we appreciate all your advocacy and concern for all students, with all abilities.

  8. ben says:

    My son was diagnosed with Asbergers Syndrome and probably will never get to lead what most consider a ‘normal’ life.
    He ‘s as smart as a whip, and as sweet as he can be but last year, in school I found out the kids were trying to bully him. Tripping him as he walked down the hall, trying to pick fights with him and so on.
    When I found out I skipped the middle man and went straight to the board of education with my concerns. Thankfully the bullying seems to have stopped this year.
    Kids are cruel, especially when n packs and the victim is someone who is different from them. I wish you the best in comforting your daughter. It is sad children have to go through this in life.

  9. Ian M. says:

    My sister has an autistic child and I can’t imagine how children could be raised like this. To deliberately hurt someone who is different is just cruel. I’d say cancel the homecoming to teach those who perpetrated this disgusting act but I know that the only punishment will be a light slap on the wrist. No real consequence will be meted out. To all the parents of these (and yes, I truly mean these next few words) horrible little shits and excuses for human beings, I hope you dole out PROPER punishments. The way we treat those who are less able than us is a true reflection of ourselves. You choose to degrade someone else, that tells me that you are in no way worthy of my time. You, instead, choose to befriend and defend those less able proves that you have a kind heart and soul.

  10. advocate says:

    This was posted on RLT Facebook tonight:
    “Thank you for all the support coming to me and my family. I would like to say first, please don’t react in any way that would hurt any of the kids at school that might have participated. We were finally contacted by the school tonight and had a meeting at school at 7pm. They asked us for a day to discuss and evaluate the situation before discipline is decided. We are hopeful. Next…Our daughter has no friends that we have ever been aware of, no one has ever called her or came to visit or even invited her to a birthday party so we were fully aware that something was wrong with the nomination when she told us. A landslide majority vote participated in making the nomination happen so it was not just a few select kids. Many kids did not participate in the vote but found out after the fact and did not react by telling the adults or administrators, although it is now known that school did suspect but would not react until they could get someone to confess or give them positive proof of the threat. Also, the parade and ceremony has not happened yet…the “plan” whatever it is (there are many stories) were brought to our attention so we felt it was necessary for our child’s safety to act and remove her from the event as a precaution. AGAIN…the plan was NOT carried out but because so many participated in making the nomination happen we could not risk giving them the chance to carry it out. Thank you again for caring about my daughter. She is trying to process why anyone would want to hurt her and we are helping her through this painful situation with love.” We all should keep asking the school to make sure they do something but we shouldn’t be mean about it. We don’t want to stoop to the levels of the abusers. But what has happened to RLT family happens every day and sometimes worse to all families across the US and world. We have to be doers, not just talkers anymore.

  11. Franklin says:

    I’m a teacher and I see this mess all the time. Honestly, it has not gotten better and I feel powerless to stop it when no one else seems to care.

  12. Dan Harer says:

    It sickens me to think that this was allowed to happen in the first place, cuts and bruises heal and fade, hurting a person with words or actions is FOREVER, it NEVER goes away, it DOESN”T fade, it WILL NOT heal.

    Don’t they teach compassion and careing anymore?

    Think before you speak or act people.

    Disgusted. Will be emailing and calling.

  13. Callie Strollo says:

    My 3 yr old little boy is nonverbal autistic. I see how kids treat him already. He is usually in his own little world and doesnt even know when someone is being mean to him. But I see it and it hurts me and pisses me off. These teachers should be fired and the students should all face some serious community service or something. Its BS.

  14. Candi says:

    I am so sorry to hear about this, as a parent of a 13 yr old autistic boy i know the pain of having people treat your child terribly, the stares, the comments , me losing my temper when i probably shouldn’t because someone is not being right towards my son, also the tears when i can’t be angry anymore, I am glad I learned of this website today , I agree there should be no homecoming , that’s the very least that needs to be done!

  15. Brenda says:

    Cancel homecoming!!!! Send a STRONG message, this kind of behavior will NOT be tolerated.

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