News and Commentary

Autistic College Student Punished For Fist Bump And Selfies Finally Clears His Name
Marcus Knight, who has autism and cerebral palsy, was accused of sexual harassment for asking a female student for a "fist bump."
Aurora Knight via GoFundMe

A Saddleback College student with autism and cerebral palsy has finally cleared the sexual misconduct allegations from his transcripts that have plagued him for nearly two years.

Marcus Knight was accused by multiple women in 2018 of sexually harassing them by asking for a “fist bump” – something he was taught at an early age to be a safe way of making friends, since he struggled to do so due to his disabilities – and some selfies. Marcus would routinely use these two methods in an effort to make friends, but thanks to today’s #MeToo culture, where anything that makes a woman uncomfortable is equal to sexual harassment or assault, Marcus was maligned.

This week, Marcus finally prevailed in court and had the misconduct sanctions removed from his transcript. Reporter Toni Airaksinen of The Post Millennial was given exclusive access to documents from Marcus’ case.

“The Court…  hereby concludes that the findings and sanctions issued by Respondents against [Marcus Knight] should be set aside,” the court found after a short trial.

Marcus’ ordeal began in 2018 when one woman reported him for asking for a fist bump, which she said made her uncomfortable. Another woman said Marcus kept looking at her and following her. A third woman said Marcus had “over 300 photos” of her on his phone. This was due to Marcus asking her for a selfie and accidentally hitting the “burst” option on his phone camera because of his cerebral palsy.

Marcus was supposed to attend a hearing over the misconduct allegations, but one of the women refused to testify and didn’t appear for the hearing. Marcus, with some help, was prepared to offer 15 character witnesses at the hearing to defend himself, but the hearing was cancelled. Still, Marcus was sanctioned over the allegations without the chance to respond.

His mother, Aurora, started a GoFundMe account to try and raise money for Marcus’ legal defense. In May of this year, the Knights were able to hire attorney Mark Hathaway, who has been very successful in suing colleges over dubious sexual misconduct claims. In early November it was reported that Marcus’ case would head to court.

Aurora told Airaksinen that she was “very scared” the night before the trial.

“What happens when Marcus tries to transfer to a four-year university? Will the accusations follow him? I am terrified for his future,” she said.

Aurora told Airaksinen that she didn’t understand what happened at the trial, but that Marcus won.

“He is smiling!” Aurora said after the trial. “After court Mark [Hathaway] took a selfie with Marcus. Then we told Marcus he could do a selfie too … he was afraid to do so. But we told him that it was ok, and he finally did!  He wants a fist bump and selfie party!”

Saddleback College now has 30 days to remove the sanctions from Marcus’ record, which should help him going forward.

Marcus is involved with his local church group and school choir, and hopes to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Musical Theater.