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Parent protests 10-year-old’s battery arrest

By Staff | Feb 14, 2009

A 10-year-old boy diagnosed with autism left his Cape Coral elementary school in the back of a police car Thursday afternoon after he allegedly hit and kicked a teacher’s aid, a police report states.
He was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center and charged with battery on an education employee, though he doesn’t fully grasp why school employees asked police to take him downtown and snap his picture, said the boy’s mother, Heather Hawke of North Fort Myers.
“He’s re-enacting it,” Hawke said of the youngster’s car ride with Cape Officer Eric Ross, and the subsequent time he spent in JAC. “That’s the only thing he’s focused on, what happened yesterday, but he doesn’t understand it also.”
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Gulf fourth-grader’s mug shot is his smile. Some law enforcement employees at first wondered why he smiled in such a serious situation, until told he was autistic, Hawke said.
Police reports state the Gulf Elementary student punched a school employee in the chest and kicked her during an emotional outburst at about 3:30 p.m. in the principal’s office. The outburst stemmed from a classroom incident during which the student was cutting his clothes with scissors and was asked to stop, his arrest report said.
The child reportedly threw the scissors, ran and locked himself in the principal’s office. When confronted by school employees and the principal, he became violent, the report says.
The aid told Ross she’d like to press charges, he reported.
Hawke said she’s had past disagreements about her son’s Individualized Education Plan, including his being able to take his service dog, Chewie, to school and have an isolated spot to cool down.
His outburst was his way of trying to be alone, she said.
“We didn’t want this to happen, we didn’t want him to hit somebody, we wanted help,” Hawke said.
Hawke’s son is new to Gulf Elementary this year, and had problems at his previous school regarding restraint, bullying and isolation, she said.
However, due to Thursday’s incident, Hawke says her son may be going to a different school soon; the Advocacy Center will ask the school district to pay for private schooling for the child, she said.
“They’re asking for it to be paid for at the school’s expense after everything that’s happened,” she said. “They don’t feel it’s appropriate for him to return to that school.”