Officials deny family's claims 5-year-old with autism punished for hugging

A family in Tennessee is upset after they claim their 5-year-old was reprimanded at school for hugging.

WTVC reported Summery Putnam, the guardian of kindergartner Nathan, said he has autism and doesn't always understand social cues.

"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."

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Putman claims Nathan's teacher accused the child of inappropriate behavior for hugging another child and kissing them on the cheek three weeks ago at East Ridge Elementary school in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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

According to WTVC, Nathan's grandmother, Debi Amick, made a private Facebook post in which she claimed her grandson was labeled a sexual predator by the school.

Nathan has since changed teachers, WTVC reported.

The school district, Hamilton County Schools, issued the following statement to

"Our school leaders work to serve our families and meet the needs of our diverse learners. This family's characterization of the incident with their child at East Ridge Elementary does not capture the full context of the concerns expressed to them by the school. It was not a hug or kiss that prompted the school to contact the family. Also, at no time did the school administration punish the child or treat the incident as a discipline issue. Moreover, no one at the school sought to label the child as 'a sexual predator.'

"Hamilton County Schools is bound by student privacy laws that do not allow us to discuss publicly specific details of what happened in the classroom setting with the child. Of course, at the family's direction and with their written approval, the district would be able to provide to interested parties documentation of the issues the school discussed with them.

"The staff at East Ridge Elementary always elects to take action that places the concern for the child as their top priority - which is also required by our district policies and state laws. School leaders are only interested in the well-being of this very young child as he grows and learns with his classmates. The faculty and staff will continue to ensure that this child and every child in our care receives an excellent education in a safe, supportive learning environment."

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