OKEECHOEBEE CO., FL (WWLP/CNN) – A Florida mother demanded answers after her 10 year old son, who has autism, was arrested at his school. The mother recorded the arrest on her cell phone.
You can hear the fear and confusion as 10 year old John Benji Haygood is taken away in handcuffs at school Wednesday.
His mother, Luanne Haygood, recorded the video on her cell phone, hoping to expose that this was how deputies handled her child, who’s been diagnosed with autism.
Luanne Haygood said, “When he was saying, ‘I don’t understand mama, I don’t understand. What’s going on’? That broke my heart.”
Haygood says her special needs son was forced to spend the night behind bars at a juvenile facility in Fort Pierce before she could finally take him home this morning.
Haygood added, “His lip was quivering. He was scared. He could barely say his own name.”
The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office served the juvenile version of a warrant for an incident that happened back in November, but deputies say they couldn’t serve the paperwork until Wednesday.
The 10-year-old is charged with a third-degree felony battery on a school employee, but Haygood said her son acted out because he didn’t feel safe with that particular employee, “It was because of his autism that spurred this incident. And he was arrested for that.”
Haygood said things need to change. She admitted her son’s had several behavioral issues in the past. She said they’re related to his autism, but she believes law enforcement and school officials need to be better prepared to deal with special needs, “Unfortunately, instead of treating or accommodating, we arrest. Because we don’t know what else to do.”
Both the sheriff’s office and prosecutors say they did not know the child was on the autism spectrum. The state attorney’s office says they will take that into consideration when they decide how to proceed.
The school district would only say that they do not invite law enforcement to their campuses just to arrest someone.