A five-year-old autistic boy is being punished for “overstepping boundaries” – hugging and kissing his classmates – and may be labeled a sex offender for life, his family says, accusing teachers of ignoring his condition
Nathan, a kindergarten student in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was reported to the state for “sexual activities” about three weeks after his teacher at East Ridge Elementary School first called his guardian, Summery Putnam, to complain the boy had hugged one classmate and kissed another on the cheek.
“You need to have a talk with Nathan about boundaries,” Putnam said the teacher told her. The guardian pleaded for understanding, arguing that “if you don’t understand how autism works, you’ll think he’s acting out or being difficult. But that’s not the situation.” But her pleas apparently fell on deaf ears – less than a month later, the boy’s overly affectionate gestures had gotten him in hot water with state authorities.
“It was disclosed that it will go on his record for the rest of his life that he is a sex offender,” the boy’s horrified grandmother, Debi Amick, wrote in a Facebook post. “He shouldn’t be treated like this. The kid doesn’t even understand what sex is,” she elaborated to local media.
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 principal insisted school staff had reprimanded the boy repeatedly, and a spokesperson for Hamilton County Department of Education claims “school personnel are required to report concerns regarding children to the Department of Child Services.”
Nathan has been removed to a special education class with a different teacher, but the damage may have been done – disciplinary measures can remain on a child’s record for their entire secondary school career, even if he isn’t blacklisted as a sex offender.