Man With Autism Who Hugged Stranger Allowed to Return to College

Woman who received hug says punishment went too far

A Waxahachie, Texas, man with autism who was kicked out of college for surprising another student with a hug will be allowed to return to school.

The woman who received the unsolicited hug said she never intended to complain and was shocked when she learned about the punishment.

"I didn't want him to get in trouble, special needs or not,” said Taylor Bruton. “I didn't want anyone to get in trouble, not over a hug.”

Brian Ferguson, 20, was taking special needs classes at Navarro College last month when he thought he recognized a young woman in the hallway, his mother said. The woman turned out to be Bruton. The two had never met.

Bruton said Ferguson hugged her and kissed her on the top of her head.

“And it was a peck,” she said.

She says some teachers noticed she was a little startled.

"They asked me about the incident,” she said Wednesday. “I explained what happened and I told them, 'It's not a big deal. I don't want anyone to get in trouble and I don't feel the need to report this.' And they asked me for a written statement, just in case."

She later learned from a report on NBC DFW that Ferguson has autism and was removed from the college special-needs classes because of the incident.

"I was so mad because I thought it was ridiculous,” she said.

Brian Ferguson’s mother, Staci Martin, said a Navarro College administrator called her earlier this week, apologized, and said Ferguson is welcome to return.

A college spokesman confirmed the conversation but noted that the decisions were made by the Waxahachie Independent School District, which runs the special needs program, known as Elevate.

Bruton said she wanted to meet Ferguson to tell him he did nothing wrong. The two agreed to get together Wednesday at a Waxahachie park where they exchanged small gifts and embraced.

“You can give me a hug,” she told him. “It’s OK.”

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