A Waxahachie man who has autism was kicked out of 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.
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, said Ferguson’s mother, Staci Martin.
The woman, who has not been identified and could not be reached for comment, turned out to be a stranger.
“He gave her a hug and kissed her on the top of her head,” Martin said. “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."
The school called it an assault, she said.
"And then they labeled it 'sexual assault' because of the kissing,” Martin said. “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.
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In a one-sentence 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.
"He cried the whole next day,” she said. “He got up for school, waited for the bus. I told him it wasn't coming."
Ferguson’s sister, 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,” Justine Colquitt said.
After a meeting Friday morning, Martin said school administrators agreed to allow her son to return to Waxahachie High School.
She said she hopes he can one day go back to college after receiving lessons on social interaction.
"He just wants to be a normal college student and function in society,” Martin said.
Ferguson has difficulty communicating but can speak and answer questions.
“I want to go back to school,” Ferguson said when prompted by his mother. “I'm bored staying at home.”
He also said he was sorry if he offended the stranger.
A spokeswoman for the Waxahachie Independent School District, Candice Ahlfinger, said she could not discuss specifics of Ferguson’s case because of student privacy laws.
But she said the district always tries to help students with special needs and their families and wants them to succeed.