Kindergartner with autism punished for hugging at school, family says


(WTVC/CNN) – A Tennessee family says a teacher accused their son, who has autism, of sexual activities after he hugged a child and kissed another on the cheek.

Summery Putnam said she got a call from her son’s teacher at East Ridge Elementary about three weeks ago.

“The teacher called me and she said you need to have a talk with Nathan about boundaries,” Putnam recalled.

Putnam says it’s difficult for Nathan to understand social cues because he has autism.

“If you don’t understand how autism works you’ll think he’s acting out or being defiant. But that’s not the situation.”

Putnam said the teacher said he was overstepping boundaries and that the educator accused her son of sexual activities after she was told he hugged a child and kissed another child on the cheek.

“I was sick to my stomach because first of all don’t you understand he’s a 5-year-old? He’s a child?” Putnam said.

Nathan’s grandmother, Debi Amick, took to Facebook, asking: “What do you do when a 5-year-old child is being labeled a sexual predator and accused of sexual harassment by the school system?”

“He shouldn’t be treated like this,” Amick told WTVC. “The kid doesn’t even understand what sex is.”

The family claims the teacher submitted a report to the Department of Child Services, but that was not confirmed.

A school district spokesman, Tim Hensley released the following statement:

“School personnel are required to concerns regarding children to the Department of Child Services (DCS). It’s up to DCS to determine if those reports are acted on by DCS and what form those actions may take. “

It’s up to the agency to determine if those reports are acted on and what form those actions may take.

“I talked to him ‘I said you can’t hug children’ he said ‘Why?’ I said because Nathan It’s not allowed,” his mother said.

The family thinks the school is in the wrong.

“To bring something like this against a child, a special needs child, really he doesn’t understand what he’s done wrong.”

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