Teacher Suspended for Hugging Autistic Student Must be Reinstated


Target: Jason Messer, Superintendent at Manteca Unified School District

Goal: Reinstate teacher suspended for hugging a special needs student.

A special education teacher has been suspended and barred from being near children after he granted an autistic child’s request for a hug. Leo Bennett-Cauchon, a teacher for 16 years, hugged and picked up an 8-year-old autistic boy at the boy’s request, as he was trained to do. The school district was notified of the act, and called police in to investigate what they have called “possible inappropriate behavior.”

Autism spectrum disorders are immensely varied and complex, and each affected child needs a different kind of care. While some do not like to be touched, others need the sensation of physical stimulation and human contact to calm them. As special needs children are likely to be away from their parents for extended lengths of time at school, it is perfectly reasonable that they may need this contact from a teacher.

Leo Bennett-Cauchon was educated specifically in understanding and addressing the needs of developmentally disabled children. By suspending him, the school is not only punishing Bennett-Cauchon, but his students as well, who need the stability and structure a familiar teacher can provide. Even the child’s mother supports the way the teacher handled her son, and believes he should be reinstated immediately.

Accusing this special needs teacher of inappropriate conduct is ridiculous, and could be detrimental to the way this teacher handles students in the future. By suspending him, the school is showing no regard for the special needs of mentally challenged students. Sign the petition below to demand that the school immediately reinstate this teacher as well as apologize for the trumped-up allegations of misconduct, which have the power to ruin his entire career.


Dear Mr. Jason Messer,

Leo Bennett-Cauchon, a special needs teacher for 16 years, was recently suspended for hugging an autistic child when the child asked for a hug. Bennett was specially trained to deal with special needs children, who sometimes need human contact to calm themselves.

Not only was the teacher suspended for hugging the child, but the school district decided to involve the police despite the child’s mother asserting that Bennett dealt with her child appropriately. These trumped-up allegations are not only ridiculous, but could even end the teacher’s career.

By suspending Bennett, the school district has shown disregard for the well-being of its special needs students, who need the stability of a regular teacher, and sometimes, physical contact. We, the undersigned, demand that the school district apologize for suspending Bennett for simply doing his job, and that he is immediately allowed to return to work.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Cynthia_M._Parkhill via Creative Commons

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  1. Michael Lynn says:

    “Possible inappropriate behavior,” said those of the school district, who sound take a closer look at their own inappropriate behavior- you bunch of wild asses colt who are contrary to nature and would have it that no one think for themselves.

  2. Carolyn Ellertson says:

    Have all you people gone mad? What would you like the world to do? We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. To criticize a teacher for hugging an autistic child who need much love shows you are total imbeciles. Granted, there are cases of abusive things happening to autistic children due to their vulnerability, but I would be interested in knowing what idiot made a federal case out of it. Obviously someone who wants attention and can’t judge property. Stupid beyond words..

  3. I agree whole-heartedly with ALL of the comments made here: the world (or should I say, some of the people in it) is obviously losing control of their senses! Most children need a hug for re-assurance now and then. There is a BIG difference between a “hug” and “inappropriate behaviour”!!! I also believe in giving a spanking when it is deemed necessary. I grew up in the “50’s and I had the odd spanking or two and I turned out OK! I grew up knowing “right from wrong”. A lot of kids today are so messed up, because somewhere along the line,they didn’t get the proper discipline, when it was really needed.

  4. what you don't all know.... says:

    Do some research people…. this teacher has been forced and or allowed to resign from several school districts in California prior to this incident For many similar reports. The Internet is a vast pool of resources….

    • Hans Ruger says:

      Yes, he was forced or allowed to leave other districts. After he got tenure at MUSD he admitted this. He seems to be a clever and trained activist. With the wording he continually uses he seems to be a Saul Alinkski/Bill Ayers apostle. Just about everyone who knows him thinks he is a constant trouble maker.

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