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

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee (WPVI) -- A mother in Tennessee says her 5-year-old son with autism was punished at school for hugging.

"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 Putnman told WTVC-TV.

Putnam says she received a call from her son's teacher at East Ridge Elementary in Chattanooga 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 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," Putnam said.

Putnam says the teacher said Nathan was overstepping boundaries.

She says 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 a sexual predator and accused of sexual harassment by the school system?"

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

Hamilton County Schools did confirm the teacher submitted a report to the Department of Child Services.

Spokesperson Tim Hensley says, according to schools policy, "School personnel are required to report concerns regarding children to DCS. It's up to DCS to determine if those reports are acted on by DCS 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.'"

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.
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