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Family says 5-year-old with autism was punished for hugging at school

School officials at East Ridge Elementary said he was overstepping boundaries. His family says he didn’t know any better.
WTVC

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WTVC) — The family of a 5-year-old Tennessee boy with autism said he has been punished at school for hugging.

School officials at East Ridge Elementary said he was overstepping boundaries. His family says he didn’t know any better.

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

Putnam said she received a call from her son’s teacher about three weeks ago.

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

Putnam said her son has autism making 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. But that's not the situation,” she said.

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

"He shouldn't be treated like this,” Nathan’s grandmother Debi Amick said.

Amick took to Facebook asking: “What do you do when a 5 year child is being labeled as a sexual predator and accused of sexual harassment by the school system?”

"The kid doesn't even understand what sex is,” she said.

The family says the teacher submitted a report to the Department of Child Services.

The school did not confirm if the teacher filed a report but a spokesperson said according to school policy, school personnel are required to report concerns regarding children to DCS.

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