Five-Year-Old Tennessee Boy With Autism Branded ‘Sex Offender’ for Hugging Classmates

A five-year-old Tennessee boy with autism has been labeled a “sex offender” by his public school because he was hugging other students and kissed one on the cheek.

The student, who has been publicly identified only by his first name, Nathan, was punished by East Ridge Elementary for being overly affectionate. The school even filed a report with the state.

The school claims that he was overstepping boundaries, but his family argues that his autism makes it difficult for him to understand social cues.

Summery Putnam, Nathan’s guardian, told ABC WJLA that she received a call from her son’s teacher three weeks ago.


“I was sick to my stomach,” Putnam said. “The teacher called me and she said, ‘You need to have a talk with Nathan about boundaries.'”

The teacher accused her son of “sexual activities” over the hugs and kiss on the cheek.

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

Debi Amick, Nathan’s grandmother, posted about the situation on Facebook, saying that the school will not even listen to the child’s doctor, who says the actions were innocent.

“What do you do when a 5 year child is being labeled a sexual predator and accused of sexual harassment by the school system? It was disclosed that it will go in his record for the rest of his life that he is a sex offender,” Amick wrote. “This child is austic, he comprehends and functions very different than your typical 5 year. What do you do? Who do you turn to for help when the school will not even listen to the child’s doctor when he explains the child’s difficulties in his comprehension of simple things such as boundaries. If anyone can offer advice or help please do. Please feel free to comment or pm me.”

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

Tim Hensley, a spokesperson for the Hamilton County Department of Education, is standing by their decision.

“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,” Hensley told WJLA.

Nathan has now been switched to another class and is enrolled in special education services.

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