Luanne Haygood, the mother of a 10-year-old autistic boy, is angry her son was arrested at his Florida school for punching and kicking his teacher six months ago. Okeechobee County School Resource Officers put the child in handcuffs last week for his alleged 2016 behavior, but Haygood says the school district isn’t properly equipped to deal with autistic children.
“He has autism. He doesn’t know what’s going on,” she can be heard saying in the video she recorded of her son’s arrest. “He’s scared to death. He’s 10 years old.”
Haygood had no choice but to stand and watch as her son John was removed from his classroom for leaving a paraprofessional with scratches and other marks back in October. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant for felony battery on a school board authority.
“I was extremely angry. That I felt like this was a power play. I felt like this was a this is what you get. You can’t do anything about it. We’re going to arrest your son if he can’t abide by the rules,” the concerned mother said, adding that John’s disability is the reason behind his behavior. “To go and have him arrested on school grounds in front of other students, in front of personnel, during school hours — they could’ve come to my house at any time to tell me what was going on.”
John was forced to spend one night in jail, and he said he was only fed once while behind bars, adding, “I didn’t know what was going on.” The child was then released on house arrest and is expected to appear in court next month. Haygood believes the incident never would have happened if the school had the proper services to address his disability.
“It’s nationwide, and these children are not getting the services they are guaranteed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,” she said. “Now, maybe something will be changed. Now, maybe somebody will believe me and other parents when we say our kids are being mistreated.”
In a statement, the school district stated:
It has been district procedure to invite students in to take the Florida Standards Assessment. The district 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.
The district is unable to provide specific information as to both current and past incidents regarding this or any other student due to educational laws and rules. It is our hope that we can continue to work with all families to help their students improve both behaviorally and academically.