Community members in East Nashville, Tennessee, are showing a bullied autistic student that there are still many good people in the world.
Tuesday, 17-year-old Jackson Darden was waiting at a bus stop after school when a young man reportedly pushed him out of line.
“I guess I got in front of this dude, because he shoved me out of the way to get on the bus. He just looked like he wanted to go off on someone,” Darden said, according to WTVF.
When he finally made it onto the Number 56 WeGo bus, the older teenager continued to bully him. “He got like up close to me and asked where I was going, where I was getting off. I said, ‘Nowhere you’d be interested in,’” he recalled.
When he arrived at his stop on Gallatin Avenue, the teenager followed Darden off the bus and began shouting at him, according to Fox 17.
“Say you’re sorry. Say you’re sorry.” Darden said the teenager yelled. “I said, ‘Can we not do this here? I just want to go home.’”
That was when the teenager allegedly punched Darden in the face, causing his glasses to fall to the ground. “Dude walked over to my glasses, said swears, and then crushed them and stomped on them,” he noted.
Passengers still on the bus tried to get off and help, but the bus drove away. Thankfully, the assailant left the scene without hurting Darden further.
Once he made it home, he told his mother what happened and she called police and filed a report.
“My son, if he cut somebody off in line or if it was felt that he pushed in front of someone, it wasn’t that he was being a jerk; it’s that he has a disability,” said his mother, Cham Lansford. “Sometimes, he’s oblivious to social cues.”
People with autism have difficulty understanding verbal and non-verbal communication, such as gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions, according to AutismSpeaks.org.
When Lansford posted about the incident on the East Nashville Facebook page, the response was overwhelming. One person even offered to buy her son a new pair of glasses.
“Seeing over 1,400 hundred positive responses versus one jerk means, you know, I mean, 1,400 to one is pretty good odds! The world is full of good people,” she said.
Now, her son has a message for anyone who has been the victim of bullying.
“You’ve got a lot of people who care about you,” Darden stated. “Take this higher up. People care. There are people who can help you with this, and you’d be surprised how much this does matter.”