A Waxahachie man who has autism was banned from college classes because he mistakenly hugged a woman he did not know and kissed her on the top of her head, according to the man’s mother, Staci Martin.
Brian Ferguson, 20, was attending special-needs classes at Navarro College’s Waxahachie campus when he thought he recognized a young woman in the hallway, a friend, that he frequently hugged when he saw her. He ran up and hugged her, kissing the top of her head. Unfortunately, the woman was not his friend.
The woman, who has not been identified by the media and could not be reached for comment, turned out to be a stranger.
His mother, Staci Martin, said he meant no harm — he has always been a loving, demonstrative person.
“He gave her a hug and kissed her on the top of her head. He’s 6’5″, so when he gives hugs, he’ll give you a big hug and kiss you right here on the top of your scalp.”
Unfortunately, the incident ended in a complaint and the school called it an assault, she said.
“And then they labeled it ‘sexual assault’ because of the kissing… They said a kiss is considered an assault.”
Ferguson attends classes at the college as part of a program with the Waxahachie Independent School District. People with Autism Spectrum Disorder frequently have trouble recognizing social norms and boundaries, and a large part of their education is geared towards helping them try to process what is considered acceptable. The difficulty with this case is that it is indeed considered appropriate by many to hug and affectionately kiss your friend, except the woman he kissed was not the person he thought that she was.
In a statement, Navarro College said any decisions about students’ enrollment in the special-needs program are made by the individual school district.
The statement did not explain Ferguson’s suspension or address any other details.
Ferguson’s mother said a college dean informed her that he was suspended indefinitely and no longer welcome back. She said this has been devastating for her son, who was diagnosed as severely autistic by doctors as a young child and she was told he would never learn to talk, but he has far exceeded those expectations. He is a social, affectionate man who enjoys spending time with family and friends, Martin said.
“He cried the whole next day. He got up for school, waited for the bus. I told him it wasn’t coming.”
Ferguson’s sister, Justine Colquitt, who also attended Navarro College, criticized the decision in widely-circulated posts on Facebook.
“To completely kick him out of school and alter his whole course of life, it’s just completely ridiculous!”
After a school meeting Friday morning, Martin said school administrators agreed to allow her son to return to Waxahachie High School. She remains hopeful he can one day go back to college after receiving lessons on social interaction.
Ferguson, who has difficulty communicating, managed to state his wishes succinctly.
“I want to go back to school… I’m bored staying at home.”
He also said he was sorry if he offended the stranger.
What do you think, readers? Was the school fair in their discipline of Ferguson?