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Ohio high school staffers charged after allegedly taping special needs student to chair

Mark and Angela Hodge speak out after their son, Dustin, who has Down syndrome and autism, was allegedly taped to a chair by two high school staff members.

The parents of a special needs student in Ohio are speaking out after their son was allegedly taped to a chair by two high school staffers who are now facing charges. 

"I found out about it when the principal called and let us know about the incident. And we were really shocked and really disappointed in everything. I mean, just to hear that really hurt us," Angela Hodge said on "Fox & Friends" Friday.

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A former West Clermont High School teacher and a former aide are now facing misdemeanor unlawful restraint charges for last month's incident, which police say one of them recorded on a cell phone. 

Allison Vestring and Rachel Smith both pleaded not guilty in separate court appearances.

"If you're just a normal person looking at the video, and you see a kid getting – it was all fun and games, but to us it wasn't fun and games. So that's the point we're trying to make. It should have never happened," Mark Hodge added. 

Dustin Hodge, a 15-year-old who has Down syndrome and autism, was allegedly restrained to a chair with tape in a high school classroom on March 1. His parents noted he is non-verbal, so he was stripped of his ability to communicate. 

Both staff members told police the action was a joke, not a punishment.

"When he was in school, a child had brought in some tape that was in his book bag. And the two teachers thought it would be funny to tape Dustin to the chair, and they were kind of getting kicks out of it. And then they told him to stand up while it was taped," Mark shared.

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"When the video comes out, some people are going to look at this and think, oh, it was just an innocent thing where they tape the kid to the chair. But what they don't know about Dustin is Dustin's constantly moving his hands, and he kind of freaks out when he gets restrained. So to Dustin, that was a big deal. To some people seeing it, it won't be a big deal, but to us it was a big deal, and definitely to him."

The 15-year-old was allegedly wrapped around his waist to where he could only move his fingers. 

Fox News reached out to West Clermont High School regarding the incident but did not receive a response.

Dustin's father affirmed they are "not trying to bash West Clermont" by speaking out.

"All through school... we've had great teachers. Teachers that really liked him, teachers that have loved him. And he loves going to school with the teachers," Mark said. 

Rather, the Hodge parents hope speaking out can bring about positive change for special needs programs in their community and districts across the country.

"What we're trying to get out of this is definitely for our special needs classes, especially the ones around in our district, to get cameras in the special needs classes. And that way, if there is an incident and we want to look back on the videos, we can actually see the videos. And that's what this whole thing is for. We just want clarity on something if he comes home with a scratch or a bruise. It could have happened out on the playground or whatever, but we want to know. And that's what a lot of people with the Down syndrome kids or special needs kids, that's what they want to know," Mark said.

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"I just want people to get out of this the fact that... our special needs kids... they're resilient, but... they're special. And you just don't want to treat anybody else's kids other than what you've want to their own kids," Angela added.

Although on spring break, Dustin's parents said he is still going to school.

"[Dustin] definitely is resilient. We hung up some birthday balloons, and we got out the tape and he said, 'scared of tape.' And that was something that kind of threw us off guard. But other than that, I mean, he's just a happy kid. He does good. He loves life and he makes us smile every day."

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