A Tennessee family claims their 5-year-old son with autism was punished by school officials for giving his classmate a hug.

Summery Putnam, Nathan’s mom, said she received a call from her son’s teacher at East Ridge Elementary about three weeks ago about having “a talk with Nathan about boundaries.”

Nathan’s autism makes it difficult for him to understand social cues, Putnam said, adding that the boy’s teacher simply misunderstood his actions.

Putnam told WTVC “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 the teacher said the child overstepped his boundaries and accused her son of sexual activities after she was told he hugged one of his classmates and kissed another child on the cheek.

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

Nathan’s grandmother, Debi Amick, posted in a private Facebook post, asking: “What do you do when a 5-year-old child is being labeled a sexual predator and accused of sexual harassment by the school system?”

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

The family claims East Ridge Elementary filed a report with the Department of Child Services, but that was not confirmed.

A school district spokesman, Tim Hensley released the following statement on the 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.”

It’s up to the agency to determine if those reports are acted on and what form those actions may take.

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.”

Nathan has been now transferred into special education services, a change which included a new classroom and teacher.

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