Marcus Knight is a college student with big dreams like most of his peers. He finished high school and went to Saddleback College in California with dreams of majoring in music theater. His dreams may be cut short due to something very common these days: a fist bump and a selfie.
Marcus, who faces a few extra challenges in life – cerebral palsy, autism and a shunt on his brain to relieve fluid pressure – is now facing the challenge of sexual harassment claims by two female students.
"In the fall semester 2017 he tried to make friends in college, and 'fist bumped' with a female student, who reported him," his mother Aurora Knight said.
"The 'incident' was reported as 'inappropriate behavior' and ended up with a Title IX incident (sexual harassment) reported against him, therefore my son was not allowed on campus without an aide. We contested the charges, pending investigation, and complied with the request," she went on to say.
A second 'incident' happened in October according to Ms. Knight.
"My son asked a girl's permission to take a selfie with her, and she said 'yes' (aide was with him) and during the taking of the picture, my son, at arms length from the girl touched her on her shoulder with the tips of his left hand. That was turned in as 'inappropriate touching,'" she wrote on an online fundraiser page.
The fundraiser was started to help the Knights pay their legal expenses in fighting the allegations. Markus' mother says both cases have been blown out of proportion.
"After months of meetings, certified mail back and forth, the college decided to 'suspend' him for the semester!! Which is absolutely crazy!!! He will be suspended and have 2 title IX incidents on his record. His college dreams and career will be over, and he will be devastated. He did nothing wrong!! So we appealed the decision, but will need legal support... and that's the help we need. He is being persecuted because of his Autism," she said.
The College Fix reports Saddleback College did drop the cases against him a day before a hearing where his mother was prepared to bring around 20 character witnesses, but the Title IX investigations remain on his record and his mother wants them removed.
It also reported on other cases and issues for students, like Markus, with disabilities who also had no "accommodations for disabilities" in the Title IX investigative process. His mother told The College Fix that he wasn't given an aid to help him properly understand what was happening or to help him explain
Ms. Knight is continuing the fight to have his record expunged of the Title IX investigation, and the GoFundMe campaign has raised $10,000 of the $15,000 goal. Donors posted several notes of encouragement to Aurora and Marcus.
She says anything left after paying their legal fees will go to Autism Speaks and other organizations like it that help kids and adults with special needs.
Marcus' mom calls him "an amazing person." She says he has never been inappropriate with anyone.
"All he desires is to make friends and be treated like everyone else. He works so hard to keep up in a normal classroom setting. He works so hard to overcome his social obstacles," she wrote.
"And, the administration is throwing him on the cross to simply make him go away. With his special needs, many people have tried to put him down over the years. He has fought for his right to have friends and an education. His one dream is to have a college degree and they are trying to take that from him unjustly," she told supporters on the page.