Family: 5-year-old boy with autism punished at school for hugging another student

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(CNN Newsource) -

A 5-year-old Tennessee boy with autism was recently punished for hugging another student, his family is claiming.

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

Putnam said she received 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 (son) Nathan about boundaries,'” she said.

Nathan is 5 years old and 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.”

Putnam said the teacher claimed 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,” said Debi Amick, Nathan’s grandmother.

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

“The kid doesn’t even understand what sex is,” Amick said.

The family claimed the teacher submitted a report to the Department of Child Services, but that has not been confirmed.

“School personnel are required to report concerns regarding children to DCS,” HCS spokesperson Tim Hensley said. “It’s up to DCS to determine if those reports are acted on by DCS and what form those actions may take.”

Putnam said she explained to her son that he was not allowed to hug other children. When he asked why, she said it wasn’t allowed. The family thinks the school was 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,” she said.

The school system would not comment on whether the teacher filed a report with DCS. Hensley said the sources of those complaints are confidential.

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