Kindergarten boy with autism punished for hugging at school, family says

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WTVC) – An autistic 5-year-old boy was punished by his school after a teacher accused him of sexual activities after he hugged a child and kissed another on the cheek, the family said.

Summery Putnam, the boy’s mother, said East Ridge Elementary called her about three weeks ago.

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

Putnam says her son, Nathan, has autism which makes it difficult for him to understand social cues.

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

According to the Putnam, the teacher said that Nathan was overstepping boundaries.

Debi Amick, Nathan’s grandmother, took to Facebook and posed the question “what do you do when a 5-year-old 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.”

Tim Hensley, a school district spokesperson, released a statement, saying: “School personnel are required to report concerns regarding children to DCS (Department of Children Services.) It’s up to DCS to determine if those reports are acted on by DCS and what form those actions may take.”

Hamilton County Schools confirmed that the teacher submitted a report to the Department of Child Services.

Putnam said she had a conversation with Nathan.

“I talked to him, I said ‘you can’t hug children,’” Putnam said. “He said ‘why?’ I said ‘because Nathan it’s not allowed.’”

The family thinks the school is wrong in the matter.

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


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