A 14-year-old boy with Down's syndrome was suspended from his Missouri middle school for what they say was sexual harassment, but his mom says was merely an enthusiastic hug. Who's right?
Here's Central Middle School's description of Aleczander Fujimoto's actions, according to KSDK:
Alec approached (the school bus aide) on the bus for a hug and she told him no and tried to push him off her. He proceeded to lay on her and (mimic a sex act, while clothed). She tried to push him off her and hollered for help. When she finally was able to get him off of her, he ran to the back of the bus. After a lot of coaxing, Alec finally got up and got off the bus.
Aleczander's mom Tonia Fujimoto says she's confident no harassment occurred:
There was no such thing. He was excited. And I feel like when he gets excited and he hugs me, it's like Christmas morning. He'll come up and give me a hug you know. And he'll be jumping up and down. And I feel like that may be what she experienced. I don't think his act was sexual in nature. He gives people hugs all the time.
Of course, Tonia Fujimoto wasn't at school, so she can't know for sure what occurred. However, the school does have security video of the incident, which it has for some reason refused to show her. This seems like a bad decision — shouldn't a mom have all the available information so she can help her kid learn appropriate behavior?
Then there's the matter of punishment. Aleczander has been suspended from school, a punishment his mom says he simply won't understand. His case has also been referred to the local juvenile hall, which his mom calls "stupid." She asks, "who puts a child with Down syndrome in juvenile?" Both punishments seem potentially counterproductive. If Aleczander has trouble greeting people in an appropriate way, he needs to learn how to do that — and suspending him from school or sending him to juvenile detention are unlikely to teach that lesson. If Central Middle School feels Aleczander poses an ongoing danger to staff and fellow students, then he needs to be taught elsewhere. But if he's going to keep attending Central, the school needs to work with (not against) his mom to discipline him in ways that actually help him behave better.