10-year-old John Haygood was arrested at Okeechobee Achievement Academy on Wednesday for allegedly attacking a teacher last fall. The arrest occured in front of his mother, Luanne Haygood, who filmed the arrest on her cell phone. It is unclear if she intends to take legal action.
John Haygood has autism and in the video, he can be heard saying, “I don’t want to be touched. Please don’t touch me . . . I don’t know what’s going on,” as the police handcuffed him. Not wanting to be touched is a known symptom of autism, according to Autism Speaks.
His mother tried to explain her son’s condition to the police and can be heard saying, “He has autism. He doesn’t know what’s going on. He’s scared to death . . . he’s 10 years old.”
According to news sources, John is accused of punching and kicking a teacher at the school. The altercation reportedly left the teacher with scratches and other marks. The boy’s mother said he has had prior behavioral issues because of his condition. It is not clear whether the teacher wishes to press charges; the teacher’s identity has not been released to the public.
John was homebound for months after the alleged incident. He went back to school on Wednesday for mandatory testing, and a school resource officer recognized him and told his mother that he had an outstanding warrant for assault.
The resource officer told John’s mother that they had to arrest him and called the police. The 10-year-old was handcuffed, arrested, and taken to juvenile facility in Fort Pierce, Florida, where he spent the night. He saw a judge the following morning and was released under house arrest.
“To go and have him arrested on school grounds, in front of other students, in front of personnel, during school hours, they could have come to my house at any time and told me what was going on,” Haygood told CBS 12.
She said none of this would have happened if the school had proper services to address his disability and that children with autism in the country are not getting the services they are guaranteed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The Okeechobee County School District released a statement to the press saying the district does have procedures in place to assist students with special needs, and that they would “not invite someone to one of our campuses for the sole purpose to arrest.”
“The district routinely assists students by providing services from our board certified behavioral analyst, licensed mental health counselors, school social workers, and psychologists. As a team, these individuals develop interventions, conduct assessments, and offer support both at school and in the home in order to assist students and families,” they stated. It is not clear whether anything similar has occurred in the past.
Both the prosecutors and the sheriff’s office told news sources that they weren’t aware that John Haywood had autism. The state’s attorney office said his condition will be taken into consideration when they decide how to proceed with the case.