A little boy has been branded "sex predator" for hugging one of his classmates and kissing another on the cheek.
Nathan, a 5-year-old, who attends East Ridge Elementary in Tennessee, was allegedly warned several times by school officials but "overstepped his boundaries by hugging another child."
According to the boy's family, their child's actions were reported to the state by the school officials, and he'll "have it on his records for life."
The boy's guardian, Summery Putnam, said that she received a call from a teacher in the elementary school, informing her of the incident. The mother claims her son has autism. Due to his condition, he didn't know what he did was wrong.
Ms. Putnam told News Channel 9:
"He doesn't know what he's doing wrong."
"If you don't understand how autism works, you'd think he's acting out or being defiant, but that's not the situation."
"I talked to him. I said, 'you can't hug children.'"
"He said: 'Why?'"
"I said, 'Because, Nathan, it's not allowed.'"
"To bring something like this against a child, a special needs child, that really doesn't understand what he's done wrong."
Ms. Putnam added that, when the school informed her that Nathan had been reported to the state officials for his behaviors, she got distressed.
"I was sick to my stomach."
"The teacher called me and said, 'you need to have a talk with Nathan about boundaries."
The boy's grandmother, Debi Amick, also aired her grievances questioning why the school "would not listen to the family or their doctor about the challenges the five-year-old was facing?"
Taking to Facebook, Amick wrote:
"It was disclosed that it will go in his record for the rest of his life that he is a sex offender."
"This child is autistic; he comprehends and functions very differently than your typical five-year-old. 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?"
A spokesperson for the Hamilton County Department of Education released a statement denying the family's allegations, arguing privacy laws permit schools to report any concerns to authorities without parent's approval.
The representative added that the school staff "always elects to take action that places the concern for the child as their top priority."
The statement reads:
"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," the statement reads."
"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."
Ms. Putnam said that Nathan has since switched classrooms and teachers. The boy is also enrolled in special education programs.