Questions Remain After Florida Child With Autism Arrested at School

A mother in one Florida county is asking for answers after her 10-year-old son, who has autism, was handcuffed by deputies and held overnight in a juvenile facility following his arrest.

Cell phone video shot by Luann Haygood that was obtained by NBC affiliate WPTV shows her son, John Benji, being taken away by a resource officer at his school in Okeechobee County on Wednesday. Haygood can be heard telling deputies her son has autism.

"When he was saying, 'I don’t understand mama, I don’t understand. What’s going on?' that broke my heart,” Haygood told the station.

Officials say the child was being arrested after he allegedly kicked a teacher back in November at the school. Deputies were able to take him into custody only now since it was his first day back at the school for testing after being suspended and later home schooled.

The child was taken to a facility in Fort Pierce – located in neighboring St. Lucie County – and held overnight, appearing before a judge on Thursday morning before being released to his mother.

Haygood said her son, who has had behavioral issues in the past, didn’t feel safe with that specific teacher and that his autism is what caused the incident. She says school officials and law enforcement need to be prepared to handle students with special needs.

OCSO officials and the State Attorney’s Office said they didn’t know Haygood had special needs at the time of the arrest. Prosecutors say they will take his condition into consideration when deciding how to go forward with the case.

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