A video of a 10-year-old boy being handcuffed and led away from school by police officers has prompted outrage after his mother shared the clip on Facebook.
John Benji Haywood of Okeechobee, Florida, arrived at school on Wednesday this week, believing he was going to be taking a test.
He had been suspended from his school, Okeechobee Achievement Academy, last November after allegedly punching and kicking a school employee.
John’s mother Luanne says she had no idea a warrant had been issued for her son’s arrest following the alleged incident – and both of the them were taken by surprise when officers handcuffed the boy shortly after he returned to school for the first time following the suspension.
John can be heard crying and pleading that he doesn’t want to be touched as officers from Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office handcuff him.
As he’s led to a police car his mother, filming the incident, tells the officers: “He has autism. He doesn’t know what’s going on. He’s scared to death, he’s 10 years old!”
After his arrest John spent the night at a juvenile facility and was released under house arrest the following morning. He is due to appear in court on May 11.
“[John Benji] is such a sweetie when he is in a supportive loving environment,” his mother wrote on Facebook. “Has manners, says yes mame thank you and please. When he is triggered he can be unruly to say the least.
“And you can even see in the video how he is struggling (and succeeding) to use all his coping skills (not taught in school) to stay calm.
“I am wanting this video to go viral to bring awareness of the lack of services within the school system to support children with all disabilities.”
Dr Jack Scott, executive director of the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, told WPTV he believed the arrest should have never happened. “I find it deplorable, when I saw it in the video,” he said. “This should never be handled criminally in my view.”