Teen with Down Syndrome accused of sexual harassment
December 20, 2011 at 3:59 PM CST - Updated June 26 at 3:51 AM
PARK HILLS, MO (KFVS) - He's a 14 year old with Down Syndrome and now his family is fighting to defend him against allegations of sexual harassment.
It's a very interesting story unfolding in the Central R-3 School District in Park Hills.
Superintendent Desmond Mayberry says the district took disciplinary action against 14-year-old Alec Scott last week over an incident that happened on a school bus.
The bus aid says Scott hugged her in a manner she deemed to be sexual in nature and inappropriate. But Scott's sister and home health aid say they were there to witness the incident and they feel the teenager did not do anything wrong.
His mother, Tonia Fujimoto, also made it to the bus last Wednesday and she now aggressively defends her son.
"How is it sexual harassment if he doesn't know anything about sex and doesn't understand the act of it?" said Fujimoto. "I thought 'You've got I be kidding me.'"
Fujimoto showed Heartland News the notice of suspension from the school principal. It says according to the aid, Scott approached her for a hug and she tried to push him off her. According to the notice, the aid says Scott proceeded to lay on her and mimic a sexual act. It goes on to say she yelled for help, and eventually managed to get him off of her. The notice says the aid says he then ran to the back of the bus.
"When he gets excited he will wrap his arms around you and jump up and down," said Fujimoto. "I think maybe that's what he was doing and she took it the wrong way. But I want to know what was she thinking, where was her head if she took his actions like that."
According to Fujimoto, and Alec's 12-year-old sister, Alizabeth Scott, Alec, Alizabeth, the bus aid and driver were the only people left on the bus during the ride home.
According to Alizabeth who normally rides the bus with her brother, she says the driver over shot the street and Alec thought they might be going back to school. She says he refused to get off because he thought they were going back to school. The bus was close to the family's home on Fite Street, and their home health worker came out to assist Alizabeth in getting Alec off the bus.
It was about that time the alleged harassment apparently happened. Fujimoto says the home health worker, Phyllis Cowell, witnessed what she also considered a harmless hug.
Alizabeth says Alec typically hugs this bus aid - and he latched on in an attempt to plead to be taken back to school. Eventually Alizabeth says Cowell, herself, and her mother were able to coax Alec off the bus.
"I love my brother," said Alizebeth. "I am surprised he was suspended. I don't know why they would suspend someone like Alex and all."
According to superintendent Desmond Mayberry, the aid felt Alec was coming on to her in a sexual way. He says the punishment administered so far should be the extent of it. He says the aid does not plan to pursue further charges. However, Fujimoto says she was notified the case could still go to juvenile court and she is looking for a lawyer
"We don't have the money for a lawyer but we need to clear his name. I fear he is not the only child the district has treated in this manner. It's about giving him a voice," said Fujimoto.
Superintendent Mayberry says he's limited as far as the information he can offer and questions he can answer regarding the case.
Fujimoto says she wants to know why the driver and bus aid did not let her know they were offended when she went out to the bus last Wednesday. She says the driver and bus aid said nothing to her of that nature at the time. What's more, school officials say there is a surveillance tape of the incident - and Fujimoto says she's been told she isn't allowed to see it.
"I want them to show me the video," said Fujimoto. "It's my right."
Fujimoto says her son has no comprehension of sex, but loves to give hugs to everyone. She has contacted several Down Syndrome advocacy groups as well as Senator Kevin Engler to try and clear Alec's name.
"It breaks my heart to have this on his record," said Fujimoto.
Meanwhile, Fujimoto is starting a petition to clear her son's name. She is also asking the school district to allow her to seek an education for Alec at an outside district.
His suspension, according to the notice, should end Jan. 5.
Again, Dr. Mayberry says he believes the aid will not seek charges in juvenile court.