In this day and age, being known as a “predator” is definitely not a good thing. And once you’re labled as one, it can be a very difficult thing to shake.
Now we all know that those with autism have a very rough time in social circles, but recently, in Tennessee, when a 5-year-old boy tried to break those chains of social awkwardness, he was named… by his school… as a predator. The little boy is named Nathan, and a woman named Summery Putnam took him in as her own and has raised him as such. She taught him how to hug people, to let them know that he cares about them. So while with other children, Nathan often shows his appreciation and his care for them by hugging them.
This kind of behavior hit officials and teachers at his school, East Ridge Elementary, in a very bad way. They said the other children felt very uncomfortable by Nathan’s show of appreciation toward them. And even when those children told Nathan that he was making them uncomfortable, he kept hugging them.
He was very confused by the whole thing, especially when they started making fun of him for hugging them. And when school officials told Nathan to stop hugging other students, he continued. And the next day, he even kissed another student on the cheek. So before anyone with the school contacted Nathan’s guardian about it, they filed a criminal report with the state of Tennessee.
When they DID contact Summery about it, she explained that Nathan had autism and could not comprehend the fuss about his hugging and friendly nature. But they did not listen to her and condemned her child for overstepping behavioral boundaries. So Summery told Nathan to stop the hugging, and he could not understand why.
But his grandmother, Debi Amick, went a step further when she learned her young grandson was being accused of sexual harassment. So she made a post about it to Facebook, essentially calling it ridiculous and that it could follow him the rest of his life.
Says Debi: “He shouldn’t be treated like this. The kid doesn’t even understand what sex is.”
Finally, the school relented, understanding that he is a special needs child. So they re-enrolled him into a special needs class, and he is now getting along well with his classmates. And these are the kinds of things in our schools that should never get this far.