5-year-old autistic boy 'put on record as sex offender' by school for hugging classmate and kissing another on the cheek
Nathan faces the prospect of living the rest of his life with his name in the sex offenders registry after he was reported for seemingly innocent actions
The guardians of a five-year-old boy with autism have asked for help after he was reported by his school for engaging in sexual activities and will be marked as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
The East Ridge Elementary School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, filed a report against Nathan, one of their kindergartners, because he hugged one of his classmates and kissed another on the cheek, according to ABC7.
Summery Putnam, Nathan's guardian, said she had received a call from the five-year-old's teacher informing her of the report around three weeks ago, and that it left her feeling "sick to my stomach".
She said the teacher had told her Nathan was "overstepping boundaries" and accused him of sexual activities. When asked to elaborate, the teacher informed her that the young boy had hugged a child and kissed another on the cheek.
The principal reportedly stood by their decision to report him and said school staff had talked to Nathan several times. Putnam explained that Nathan's autism meant he found it difficult to follow social cues.
"If you don't understand how autism works, you'll think he's acting out or being difficult," she said. "But, that's not the situation."
"I talked to him. I said, 'You can't hug children'," she continued. "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."
Debi Amick, Nathan's grandmother, pleaded for help in a Facebook post, writing, "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."
"This child is autistic, he comprehends and functions very different than your typical 5-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."
Addressing the issue, a spokesperson for the Hamilton County Department of Education released a statement which read, "School personnel are required to address concerns regarding children to the Department of Child Services (DCS). It's up to the DCS to determine if those reports are acted on and what form those actions may take."
After the fiasco, Nathan has switched classrooms and teachers and is now enrolled in special education services.