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10-year-old boy with autism charged with felony battery after alleged assault on teacher

10-year-old boy with autism charged with felony battery after assault on teacher. (WPEC)

A 10-year-old local boy with autism, charged with felony battery, has pleaded not guilty.

John-Benjamin Haygood, an elementary school student at Okeechobee Achievement Academy, was arrested last month accused of punching and kicking his teacher.

His mother Luanne Haygood said the attack was the result of a meltdown.

"Unfortunately, mothers of autistic children are not surprised by this because it happens all the time," she said. "The school even determined that his meltdown situation was a manifestation of his disability."

On Thursday morning, the Haygood family marched from Flager Park to the Okeechobee County Courthouse where the 10-year-old entered his not guilty plea.

He will remain on house arrest while he waits for his next hearing set for Monday, where he'll meet with the Department of Juvenile Justice.

The boy's mother said at that time she believes the state will offer her son the option to enroll in a diversion program.

"They may recommend counseling. They may recommend community service, different things that they think will divert him from criminal activity in the future," she said.

Haygood says it's an offer she won't accept.

"If I accept the diversion program, then it's done with; my kid's just on probation and everybody's done with it; but it's an issue that needs to be addressed," she said.

If the Haygoods do officially get offered the option for a diversion program and they reject it, this case could go to trial.

John's next court date has been set for May 25.

When asked about this incident, school district officials told CBS12 they cannot comment because of education laws in place.

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