A 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome has been suspended from school for inappropriately "hugging" a bus aide. The boy's mother insists it was an innocent gesture, while school officials claim it was sexual harassment.
According to an incident report from Central Middle School in Park Hill, Mo., Alec Fujimoto asked a bus aide for a hug. After she refused and pushed him away, Alec "proceeded to lay on her and (mimic a sex act, while clothed). She tried to push him off her and hollered for help," the report said.
However, Alec's mother, Tonia Fujimoto, says there was no "sex act," but simply a misunderstanding.
"There was no such thing," Fujimoto told local news station KSDK. "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."
She added: "If you know Down syndrome children, they're very loving. And they're going to display more public affection than anyone else is going to display."
Alec's home health care worker, identified as Phyllis, told ParklandNews.com that she saw the incident and does not believe anything unusual happened and that it was just a matter of a special needs child not wanting to get off the bus when he was supposed to, so he tried to cling to the bus aide.
"I was the one who took the strap off him," Phyllis said. "The day this supposedly happened, no one said a word about it to Alec's mom or me. Not a word."
Phyllis, who has been taking care of special needs children for over two years, said part of the reason for the overreaction is because the school lacks personnel who are trained to deal with children like Alec.
"I have had three special needs children of my own who graduated from Central. One in 1992 and two in 1995,” Phyllis said. “All together, I've had six of my own children graduate from Central. But back then, Central had certified special education teachers.”
Causing Fujimoto even more frustration is the school's refusal to show her the security videotape of the incident, which she says she should be allowed to see.
"When it comes to them not showing me the video, I think I'm getting my rights taken away as a parent," she said. "I just feel like they should let me see the videotape. And let me see what they're accusing my son of."
Phyllis said allowing the videotape to be shown could easily clarify a lot of the misunderstanding.
"We want to see the tape," Phyllis said. "I was there and know what happened, so let us see the tape. Alec deserves an education just like every other child in the district of Central."
In addition, the school informed her that the incident has been "referred to juvenile," meaning further legal action could be taken.
"I think that's stupid," said Fujimoto. "I mean who puts a child with Down syndrome in juvenile?"
The Christian Post could not reach the school district for comment by press time, however, KDSK reported that School District Superintendent Dr. Desi Mayberry could not discuss the case out of privacy considerations and that the district does not "make a practice of sharing such videos with parents."
Many readers online have expressed their support for Alec and his mother. On Change.org, a petition has been created with nearly 500 signatures in less than 24 hours, with many signers claiming the school is unjustly punishing a child and unfairly treating the mother by withholding information.
One comment read: "I personally know this child. He is not aware that what he did is wrong. Besides that, this is not the way to treat the parents of a child in a school district. They should know all of the evidence showing what they are accusing their child of."