Leo Bennett-Cauchon has been a special education teacher for the past 16 years working with students who have severe disabilities, but the well-liked educator is now out of a job after giving a hug to an autistic 8-year-old who reached out to hug him.
Bennett-Cauchon was suspended by the Manteca, California, school district and put on leave, also barring him from being near children.
But Leo Bennet-Cauchon said he didn’t do anything wrong.
“I’ve been trained, if a student asks for a hug, you give a hug. I admit completely that I hugged him and let him sit in my lap when he said ‘sit.’ I picked him up when he said ‘up.’ This is a child that needs that physical contact,” Bennett-Cauchon said.
The school even turned the case over to the Manteca Police Department, who are looking into whether there were “repeated acts of inappropriate behavior.” Police said they are concerned “there could be multiple victims.”
But Leo Bennett-Cauchon said there’s a good reason. Many of the kids he teaches are homeless or in the foster system, and often they just need a hug.
Many parents are in Leo’s corner, including the parents of the boy.
“He has my full support,” Sharon Anaya said. “That’s why I felt that this should have remained at a school district level investigation, rather than involving police.”
This is not the only case of a controversial teacher suspension to make headlines in recent week’s. Back in December, a teacher in Oklahoma was suspended for reading his class a Benjamin Franklin quote that read: “In the dark, all cats are gray.”
The quote, taken from one of Franklin’s letters titled by historians “Advice to a Young Man on Choosing a Mistress,” was meant to illustrate that the founding father was still just a man, and a flawed one at that. But the quote’s sexual undertones attracted the attention of the district, who suspended the teacher.
Meanwhile, Leo Bennett-Cauchon has taken his protest directly to the district, standing outside the administrative offices with a sign that read,”Let me teach. Bring back joy.” Police said their investigation will take up to four weeks.